‘Where’s our First Lady?’ Twitter debates Dr Motsepe’s ‘silence’ on gender issues

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.

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.

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.

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.

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