Naledi Chirwa’s public apology sparks debate around the grace given to working moms

Naledi Chirwa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Naledi Chirwa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Published Mar 5, 2024


Being an adult is challenging because you spend most of your time at work, leaving you with little time for your family.

Many workers can’t even take a day off to attend to personal matters, and Member of Parliament Naledi Chirwa is among them.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) member couldn’t attend the Budget Speech on February 21, because her four-month-old baby was sick. The party instructed her to issue a public apology and fined her for not informing the chief whip.

In a lengthy statement, Chirwa apologised for missing the Budget Speech and undertook to purchase two gazebos before March 28, which was part of the “reprimand” set by her party.

She mentioned that she was so committed to her work and that she had only gone on maternity leave a day before she gave birth and had returned two months before her maternity leave ended.

Read the full statement below:

Chirwa’s apology and situation has sparked a public debate about the plight of working mothers, with former politician Mbali Ntuli critical of the EFF’s handling of the matter.

She said: “This is tough and having kids and one being sick, I’m sure it was just a mistake to not report to the whip. The organisation could have submitted an LOA (letter of absence) on your behalf, though.

“In any case, I do not think being made to pay financially for a mistake that was made during a difficult emotional and physical period is fair. I hope you can still take this on review.

“Many of your colleagues regularly missed sittings in KZN with no explanation I’ve never seen any of them punished publicly for it. I hope this information might help you get leniency.”

TV producer Portia Gumede, said: “Many of us have cut our maternity leave short, and trust me, it's never rewarded or appreciated by your employers.

“And while Chirwa was wrong for not informing her manager because every employee knows that if you have to miss work for any reason, you have to let your employer know.

“That doesn’t take away from the fact that most South Africans think that her employer was severely harsh, especially given the reasons she had to skip work.”

@Nampree commented: “I don't think any mother should issue a public apology for taking family responsibility leave. However, we all know that when we take leave, it's a must that we report to the correct person.

“However, I don't think Naledi should've been made to issue a public apology.”

Some South Africans expressed concern that if this was how EFF treated mothers, then, should they win the elections, the whole country would be in trouble.

“Can’t be with your four-month-old? And then made to issue a public apology???? What does this say about the party’s stand on maternity leave, what would happen should they be in power?

“This is bad, bad,” said food and lifestyle content creator, Onezwa Mbola.

Author and natural hair activist Janine Jellars said: “Two months mat leave? A public apology and gazebos for missing work to tend to your newborn? The worker's party is making corporate SA look like bastions of women’s rights.”