South Africans on Twitter are debating the perceived “silence” of First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe on issues affecting women and children.
The debate arose early on Friday when a Twitter user, @lara_robertson, tweeted about the Sandton shutdown protest.
Many others joined her in questioning why Dr Motsepe seemingly hasn’t commented on recent events affecting women.
Some even wondered what the role of First Ladies is.
Others felt that Dr Motsepe could use her influence and stature to lend weight to gender issues.
I feel like no First Lady in this country has ever done a thing. They don’t even have Constitutional power. Dr Motsepe is the first one I’ve ever seen getting dragged@naledimashishi
Of course it is not mandatory for Dr Motsepe to speak on the ongoing GBV, but it would nice especially since it looks like her hubby doesn’t care much.
It’s always nice to see women in power, women in the public eye stand with ordinary women, fighting factors that effect all women@Farm_Juliya
In defence of Dr Motsepe
However, many Twitter users were quick to defend the First Lady.
University of Pretoria academic Dr Sithembile Mbete suggested that people misunderstand the role of First Lady.
Just because you don’t know what her job is, it doesn’t mean Dr Motsepe does nothing for women’s rights.
Also, she doesn’t have to explain her work to you just because she’s married to the president. He’s the one who isn’t doing his job properly, not her.Dr Sithembile Mbete
Others said she has been active on gender and children issues all her life and doesn’t need to do anything differently now that she’s First Lady.
Dr Motsepe has been working on women’s issues including GBV her whole career using her OWN resources. Why must she do things differently now that she is the president’s wife.@goolammv
The Presidency’s 2010 clarification
During former President Jacob Zuma’s first term in 2010, The Presidency issued a statement on the role of spouses of the president.
It said under the Constitution, there is no official designation of a “First Lady.”
However, “The Presidency provides administrative support to the spouses of the President through its spousal office.”
The spouse may engage in activities that support the president’s work, but this is voluntary and not mandatory, the statement said.
Dr Motsepe’s recent public engagements
Dr Motsepe has had several public engagements in the recent past.
In August, she was the keynote speaker at the Ntataise Network’s annual conference, where she spoke on Early Childhood Development.
In July, she spent her Mandela Day distributing learning resources to children at the Early Care Foundation in Johannesburg.
She has also accompanied President Cyril Ramaphosa to several overseas engagements.