Instead of welcoming its first woman president, the world’s richest and most influential democracy has sent out the frightening message that strong men still rule the world despite the little chinks in the patriarchal armour that we’ve seen in recent years. 
Eight years ago when Hilary Clinton ran against Barack Obama as the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, we learned that America was more accepting of a black, than of a woman president. Banners such as “she could not satisfy her husband, how can she satisfy America?” served as a reminder that misogyny in the USA runs deeper than even the legacy of slavery.    
The former first lady, who went on to become Secretary of State during Obama’s first term, worked for a more egalitarian world under a president raised and surrounded by women in his personal life, and genuinely respectful of them in his professional life.
Polls predicted an easy landslide for Clinton in the fight against the brash and bragging Donald Trump, whose combination of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny left even fellow Republicans distancing themselves from this candidate.
Winds of change had finally started to shake the deeply patriarchal roots of western politics. Angela Merkel in Germany had risen to become one of the most respected leaders in modern times. In the UK, Theresa May took over from David Cameroon after the woeful Brexit referendum. Women in high places seemed to be the growing trend.

So where did it go so wrong? The answer is simple, and it’s a wake- up call to the rest of the world as we rev up for the Post 2015 era with its much vaunted Sustainable Development Goals, including goal five – gender equality. 
Americans, and the world at large, are still far from ready to embrace women in leadership. They are still more comfortable with sexual predators who treat women as objects and conquests than with intelligent, capable women who have actually proved their ability to lead.
Watching Donald Trump excuse his “locker room” banter, caught on TV, and leading to a string of accusations by former women employees, reminded me of South Africa’s President Zuma wriggling out of a rape trial on the eve of his election in South Africa in 2009. Both realised they had behaved badly in relation to the emerging trends and norms in their countries. But both smiled snugly in the realisation that it would all blow over in no time.
Indeed Americans, it turned out, were more “concerned” about the E Mail storm-in-a-tea-cup brewed by the FBI over Hilary Clinton, than the fact that Trump openly admitted to sexual assault – “you can do that when you are a celebrity.”     
According to the Associated Press, “Trump won by dominating among white voters, especially non-college-educated men, trumping Clinton's coalition of women, minorities and young people.. Tuesday's election produced the largest gender gap since the exit poll began: The gender gap for Clinton - the difference between the number of men who voted for her and the number of women who voted for her - hit 13 percentage points.” Of course a sizeable chunk of mostly white, working class women voted for Trump. As Franz Fanon might have observed, the propensity of the oppressed to internalise their own oppression is as old as history itself.
Clinton largely managed to hang on to the youth vote crucial to Obama eight years ago. The sad thing, both in the US elections and in Brexit, is that older generations are voting for a world that younger generations do not want. The gender and the age gap tell us that the “strong men rule, okay!” is not what a large percentage of the population wants, but it is a hard nut to crack. For the record: Hilary Clinton won the popular vote but not the number of electoral college votes needed to clinch the presidency.
America, and the world on which it has so much influence, must now brace for a roll back on hard won gains – for women in employment (Trump is on record as saying women should not work); child care; choice of termination of pregnancy, and gay rights, among a host of others. The changing public perception of the role of women, so crucial to change, will also take a knock.
When Hilary Clinton occupied the White House as first lady she once famously declared that she had not taken the job in order to bake cookies. She bore the pain of a philandering husband almost impeached for his conduct while in office, but refused to be a victim, using her unique vantage point to build a public profile that served her well in two bids for the top job.
Michelle Obama, a Princeton and Harvard Law graduate and successful professional in her own right, also raised the profile of first lady to one of equal partner.
Melania Trump, the third wife of the business mogul, best known for plagiarizing one of Michelle Obama’s speeches, will now be the nation’s first lady. Like Zuma’s several wives and concubines, the message is that the women who surround strong men are like ornaments in the background. Sex and scandal become the flip side of the coin to power, money and corruption.  Beneath the rhetoric of equality, patriarchy is still having the last laugh.

  • Colleen Lowe Morna is CEO of Gender Links. This article is written in her personal capacity.

Colleen Lowe Morna
CEO, Gender Links
9 Derrick Avenue
Cyrildene, Johannesburg
South Africa 2198
Phone: 27 11 622 2877
Fax: 27 11 622 4732
Twitter: @Genderlinks 

On 08 November 2016, SANGONeT attended the launch of the broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) ICT Sector Council at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Johannesburg.

Organised by the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services, the event aimed to officially launch the B-BBEE ICT Sector Council which is tasked with monitoring the transformation of the ICT sector by facilitating the implementation of the B-BBEE sector code in South Africa.

The B-BBEE Sector Council, which has diverse representatives from government, ICT sector, women, youth and organised labour, will measure the progress made by the ICT sector.

In his key note address, Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services Minister, Dr Siyabonga Cwele said “the launch of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) ICT Sector Council marks another achievement that we are chalking up as we aggressively implement the NDP”.

“The Council is tasked with broadening the meaningful participation of blacks, women, youth and people with disabilities in the ICT sector - not just as consumers but also as entrepreneurs and content producers. It also has to measure the progress we are making as a country towards an inclusive digital economy”, added Dr Cwele.

Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Commissioner, Zodwa Ntuli said “the Council aims to eradicate fronting, misalignment and inconsistent interpretation”.

The launch of the B-BBEE ICT Sector Council also follows the gazetting of the B-BBEE sector code which took place on Monday, 07 November 2016. In 2015 Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies issued a gazette that requires all sector codes to be aligned with the amended B-BBEE codes.

“B-BBEE Sector Council is the custodian of the B-BBEE ICT Sector Code”, emphasized B-BBEE Sector Council Chairperson, Cllr Nokuzola Ehrens.   

To read more about the B-BBEE Sector code, refer to

Phiroshaw Camay (1947 – 2016)

Phiroshaw Camay, who died last week, was probably my closest friend and comrade for more than three decades. We first met in 1982, during trade union unity talks that ultimately led to the formation of labour union federation Cosatu in 1985.

He was then the general secretary of the Council of Unions of South Africa (Cusa) and I an organiser for the Orange-Vaal General Workers Union, based in Vereeniging.

PC, as he was affectionately known, became interested in trade unions while he was working as a librarian in the Johannesburg City Council. He rose through the ranks to become the leader of Cusa and thereafter the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu), and a major figure in the wider trade union movement. He played a leading role in the trade union unity talks but Cusa, influenced more by the thinking of the Pan Africanist Congress and the Black Consciousness Movement, did not join the largely ANC and Freedom Charter-aligned unions that constituted Cosatu at its birth in 1985.

But in 1989, PC resigned from Nactu after failing to get the federation to support the Harare Declaration, in which the ANC set the terms for negotiations with the then Nationalist Party that ultimately culminated in the 1993 settlement and the 1994 first nonracial and democratic elections in South Africa. His view was that the federation he led could not ignore major political developments that were going to affect the future of the country.

Deeply disappointed, he decided with a few others to form the Co-operative for Research and Education (Core) in 1990, a nongovernmental organisation he led since then, through thick and thin. Even when the funding environment became tough after 1994, and especially in the past decade, he managed to hold Core together.

Many were unaware that part of the reason Core stayed afloat was the fact that he took a big cut in salary so as not to have to lay off staff, a measure undoubtedly influenced by his days in the union movement and the resultant sympathy for workers.

To his credit, PC never showed any interest in getting into government or the corporate sector after 1994. With his experience and skills he could have earned a big salary, enjoyed great perks and led a comfortable life, as did so many other former trade unionists. No, he consistently stuck to trying to build a strong civil society, especially in light of the evident neglect of it by the ANC government after 1994.

Somebody on Facebook said she had never in all the years heard him talk ill of people. She was right. Try to drag him into slandering somebody, no matter who it was, and you would fail. But in a discussion of ideas and organisations and the important issues of the day, you would hear a lot from him. And though he never suffered fools gladly, he also never once that I can recall attacked or insulted people.

At a personal level he was always warm, approachable and dignified. There was a discernible equanimity he seemed to possess, which benefited him immensely. I never saw him really angry. We have lost a great man who passed away far too soon at the age of 69, the result of complications following heart surgery.

  • Ebrahim Harvey, political writer, analyst and author, Mail & Guardian. 

Innovators, policymakers, and investors gathered in Johannesburg last month for the South Africa Innovation Summit and after this, it is worth asking, are we as a nation doing enough to finance health innovation and technology? South Africa faces many challenges when it comes to the health of our people. As South African Minster of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi said, “We must markedly reduce this burden of disease because it is too high a burden for the nation to carry.” It is encouraging to see South Africa raising its game to advance home-grown solutions for the challenges we face.

Investments in science, technology, and innovation for health by governments around the world will be critical to meeting the ambitious targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, when investment is not significant enough, or a supportive policy environment does not exist, many promising products and innovations will not be taken to market and reach the people who need them the most to avoid preventable deaths. I have seen this happen far too often in my four decades in health research and development (R&D) and innovation.

How does South Africa measure up?

PATH, an international NGO dedicated to saving lives through global health innovation, partnered with the Centre for Economic Governance and AIDS (CEGAA) to produce an analysis titled Health Research and Development Budget Allocations and Expenditures in South Africa: A baseline report. This report tracks investments by the South African government in health R&D and highlights gaps. It provides important evidence for civil society to inform advocacy for investments in health R&D.

So, what is the gist of the report and what interesting data is in it? Below are some of the topline findings.

The South African government is committed to health R&D. South Africa has undoubtedly made commitments over the past decade toward ensuring that R&D is prioritized and funded to bolster the economy and create jobs. Positive developments include the fact that the South African government has established various research institutes in the country and has committed to ensuring that research funding is prioritized.

An example of government commitment towards health R&D, mainly through support from the Department of Science and Technology, has been the establishment of the Medical Research Council’s Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP) which acts as an upstream R&D catalyst for the development of transformative health technologies. SHIP has now partnered with PATH to create the Global Health Innovation Accelerator (GHIA) in South Africa, for downstream commercialization and introduction of technologies together with industry. The government has also set a target in the 2014–2019 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) that investment in R&D should increase to 1.5 percent of GDP by 2019.

However, funding for health R&D has yet to reach its full potential. Currently, health R&D only accounts for 0.1 percent of total government spending and is not increasing at a rate that keeps up with inflation. Moreover, investment in health R&D is decreasing as a share of total government spending. As the financial climate in South Africa is becoming increasingly burdened with other issues such as food and nutrition security, energy security, climate concerns, and financial instabilities, those commitments remain in doubt.

Health R&D funding is inconsistent across government. The report also shows that health R&D is inconsistent across government with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) currently funding the most in health R&D while the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Health spend less. It is important that government departments all contribute a significant portion of their budgets towards health R&D to ensure that health innovations are adequately financed. This should ensure that local health technology manufacturers are able to grow their sector leading to job creation and lifesaving technologies for those in need.

A funding gap remains. The South African government has set a target that investment in R&D should increase to 1.5 percent of GDP by 2019. However, in 2013 investment dropped to 0.76 percent of the GDP, declining from 0.92 percent cited by the National Development Plan in 2007. Clearly more funding is needed to ensure that health technologies are developed to reach the people in need with the added benefit of local manufacture and job creation.


Based on the analysis, PATH and CEGAA have several recommendations. First, government spending on health R&D should align with the National Research Strategic Plan in order to reach set gross expenditure targets for R&D, and additional resources should be made available to enhance evidence generation and innovation.

Additionally, the government should measure contributions of other sectors, such as donors and the private sector, in R&D to ensure that those investments cover high-priority health needs. The private sector needs to invest more in health R&D in order to reach targets of the South African National Development Plan. One way to increase private sector participation is for the government to implement strategies for incentivizing private-sector investment. The government has, for example, introduced tax incentives for R&D with the aim of encouraging South African companies to invest in scientific or technological R&D.

Lastly, more in-depth assessments are needed to get a deeper understanding of where R&D funding is spent in the South African public sector, what drives the spending, and what are the results. Much of the R&D spend has been wasted on poorly selected opportunities and lack of expert scientific scrutiny. Expenditure should be driven primarily by in-depth needs assessments, followed by rigorous scientific and technological due diligence. With such limited resources, R&D funding needs to be spent with every chance of a successful outcome. Entities such as SHIP and GHIA have been established toward this end.
Monitoring accountability

Armed with such evidence, civil society has a critical role to play in monitoring government accountability to ensure funding commitments are fulfilled and activities are aligned with national plans.

For this reason I recently joined a group of nongovernmental organizations to launch the South Africa Health Technologies Advocacy Coalition (SAHTAC). SAHTAC represents organizations with interests in healthcare and advocacy who work together for an enabling environment for R&D and access to lifesaving health technologies and innovations. The organizations within SAHTAC work in partnership to strengthen the voice of civil society in advocating for health R&D.

We have many pressing financial priorities in South Africa, but investing in the future is a tangible way to attack the vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation, and the efforts being made in health R&D today will positively impact the economic status of South Africa tomorrow. It is key that we invest in long-term, sustainable health technologies for local manufacture that can potentially save millions of lives.

  • Dr. Tony Bunn is a Senior Advisor/Consultant with the MRC-PATH Global Health Innovation Accelerator


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