Wed, 12 Aug 2020

The ANC Youth League's national youth task team has called for the removal of Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga over racy pictures he tweeted to promote reading.

"We are disgusted that a public servant tasked with being the voice of basic education consciously chooses to use the imagery of semi-naked African women in a derogatory and sexualised manner to promote reading," said Tandi Mahambehlala, the task team's convener.

This is after Mhlanga posted a series of photographs of scantily clad women, and a man with his shirt off, to promote reading.

He has since removed the tweets, apologised and explained that he had used the images to promote the department's Read to Lead Campaign in 2016, 2017 and 2018 with no complaints.

One picture was of a woman with oiled breasts and low cleavage, and a book, another was a semi-dressed couple with a book.

He explained contemporary audiences, who consume media, tend to be open about sex and sexuality, and while understanding the metaphoric meaning, he wanted to push the boundaries to promote reading in many settings.

Mahambehlala said the league was outraged and called Mhlanga mysogynistic for not only posting the pictures, but for doing so during Women's Month, and without knowing whether the subjects of the photographs had consented to their images being tweeted.

"Women in general, and African women in particular, have been subjects of hypersexualisation and objectification. The unequal structure of society has often viewed women as nothing more than objects of sexual pleasure whose tangible contribution to the nation is negligible, particularly in a patriarchal society.

"It is within this context that we call for the immediate removal of Elijah Mhlanga as the spokesperson for basic education."

The task team added Mhlanga's job was to speak to the South African population as a whole, but specifically to parents and children within the basic education system.

The department covers schooling up to Grade 7 as well as adult literacy programmes.

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