Pretoria: The Presidency says the remarks on gender roles and family made by President Jacob Zuma on the television show, People of the South, were based on the need to strengthen the family as an institution.
“Government has released a Green Paper on Families, which states that the family is under threat and is unable to play its critical roles of socialisation, nurturing, care and protection effectively, due to failures in the political economy and the legacy of colonialism and apartheid,” said the Presidency.
The Green Paper, released by the Department of Social Development, attributes this to various societal forces, such as high levels of poverty and inequality; high unemployment, particularly among young people; teenage pregnancies; crime; unwanted pregnancies; HIV and Aids; illiteracy; gender inequalities; absent fathers; former spouses or partners who impede fathers from playing a role in the lives of their children; domestic violence; and high numbers of orphaned and vulnerable children that are acutely pronounced in South Africa, due to weakening family structures.
In a 2009 study, the South African Institute of Race Relations noted that family life in the conventional sense did not exist for many South African children. For example, almost 25% of the country’s under-18s were growing up without their biological parents. The number had increased by about 100 000 a year, from 3.7 million in 2002 to 4.2 million in 2007.
The number of children who had lost one or both parents to Aids stood at 1.4 million – more than in many African countries.
Furthermore, due to migrant labour system and the economic situation, most children grow up in female-headed households with absent fathers.
In addition, notes the Green Paper, there is a disjuncture between the idealisation of the family and the cherished beliefs about what families are and should be and the role of both parents and communities.
“This means we need to define the South African families together, and the Green Paper provides that opportunity for meaningful dialogue.
“The debate around what the President said in People of the South should go deeper and wider and hopefully ignite stakeholders to discuss the Family Green Paper in the public domain, and help the process of defining, building and strengthening the South African family as an institution,” said the Presidency.