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media releases - A non-sexist South Africa vs Zion Christian Church practises

Patriarchy and sexism exist. As women we don’t help the cause if we continue to deny this. We can’t blame men if we continue to perpetuate it. We say we live in a non-racist and non-sexist society, but we haven’t fully dealt with racism and the same can be said for sexism,” said South African born scholar, Professor Boatamo Mosupyoe.

She was responding to questions and remarks from guests who attended her thought-provoking and engaging lecture entitled Mediation of Patriarchy and Sexism by Women in South Africa. Her lecture, held on 4 July at Unisa, formed part of the College of Human Sciences’ Africa Speaks lecture series, and was based on research conducted among women in the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) from 1994 to 1997 and in 2009. She explored how the call of a non-sexist South Africa conflicts with the ZCC’s institutional religious structures and its social cultural practises.

Professor Mosupyoe, who is the Director of the Pan African Studies and Cooperation at the California State University, interviewed ZCC female members 18 years and older, from both urban and rural areas, and examined how women explained and mediated the differences in perception of their church’s practises and the non-sexist concept.

She began with a brief history of the church’s formation and activities from its start as the Christian Apostolic Church. She explained how Bishop Ignatius Lekganyane founded the ZCC and spoke about the church’s “stressed obedience to the white South African government”. This stance, she said, created tension between the ZCC and the liberation and anti-apartheid movements. But the end of apartheid mediated these tensions and there has been “mutual embrace” by both the ZCC and the ANC led government.

She said that the non-sexist ideological construct in the South African Constitution was in sharp contrast with the ZCC lived experience and this posed problems. She said it rendered the ZCC as one of the many South African vehicles of patriarchy. She argued that generally, religious instruction and the church’s peace theme Khotso, formed sources of knowledge production and cultural logic that informed the epistemological foundation from which women framed their conception of patriarchy and sexism.

Professor Mosupyoe said while the women did not deny the existence of the discordance between the concept of non-sexism and the ZCC’s religious and cultural practices, their responses to this hegemony produced a degree of opposition and resistance, as well as compliance and acceptance to many hegemonic relationships. 

She also shed light on the ZCC’s partnership with government in fighting poverty, physical abuse of women and the scourge of HIV/AIDS; adding that the church has demonstrated over the years that it is a crucial socialisation body. She posited that in order to achieve a truly non-sexist society, powerful and influential institutions such as the ZCC, cannot escape the charge of massive re-education to promote the achievement of a non-sexist society.

Professor Mosupyoe then engaged with the audience, some who belonged to the ZCC and challenged her research, and others who commended her for highlighting this situation; and the plight facing most religions around the world.

*** Africa Speaks
This CHS lecture series is intended to provide a rigorous academic platform for some of the best intellectuals on the African continent as well as those in the African Diaspora to critically engage with cultural, socio-political and economic issues that are of concern to all Africans. The lectures also provide young academics at Unisa with an opportunity to interact with Africa’s best intellectuals in the social sciences and humanities so that such invitees can act as role models to our emerging scholars.



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