Sorry, we have no space for rape apologists.


In October 2017 South African Kwaito star Sipho ‘Brickz’ Ndlovu strolled into the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court wearing grey pants, a white shirt and a blue jersey. While his attire proved fairly neutral, his choice of accessory did not. Brickz completed his look with a heartless smile.

Smiles are not gestures usually frowned upon, but in this case, the amused expression was severely uncalled for, Brickz was facing a conviction of raping a 17-year old relative in 2013.

The archaic and far too simplistic excuse for rape dates back to 1886 – and that is that men rape women because of sexual deprivation therefore causing them to lose control of their urges in the presence of an unguarded woman. Psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing wrote about this myth in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. He further writes that rapists suffer from a mental weakness that allow sexual urges to escape control. This is commonly now known as the hydraulic theory – The pressure of wanting to have sex is too much, and men are too weak, therefore a horrific crime manifests as a result.

Over a century later, the same theory persisted. In fact, the simplicity worsened. Alfred Kinsey, for example, the famed sexologist who founded the Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, dismissed the issue altogether saying that most rapes were false accusations and saying they caused no real hardship anyway.

Fast forward a few years later and as a result of the landslide of rape myths and falsified rape theories which are products of a patriarchal society we find ourselves, still, battling with what we now call rape apologists who still problematically exist in numbers in spite of the significant amount of scientific and psychological study, educational research and feminist theory.

Rape apologists argue that women ask for it, boys will be boys and most of all, women dramatise the act of non-consensual sex for attention, or simply that it never happened. Rape apologists are the men who are most likely to ask for “proof that it happened”, question “what she was wearing” or “what did she do to deserve it”, or smile in court denying that it happened all together, as in the case of Brickz.

Here’s what we know about the victim – she was under the legal age of consent at the time and a virgin, she was the musician’s cousin and she suffered severe bleeding as a result of the rape. We also know she had been infected with an STD and was struggling with depression after the heinous act saying that she wanted to kill herself. We also know Brickz, who told her to take a shower and never tell anyone what had happened, if she did, he would kill her. Then the focus moves back to Brickz, smiling in court, with no remorse, no empathy and an unhealthy degree of deniability.

The rape apologist pandemic is not one particular to South Africa. But in a country fraught with rape, where men should be at the forefront of recalling rape culture instead of perpetuating it, this is the last thing we need.

It is estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only one in 13 rapes are reported, while only 14% of perpetrators are convicted.

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In 2017/18 the police reported a record number of rapes at 40,035 for the year with 110 occurring daily but more than that, the Institute of Security Studies reports that the extent of the crime cannot accurately be estimated because there is no way of knowing how many women refrain from reporting the crime.

The survivors of rape are the forgotten and invisible demographic of our country. They silently exist on the dark fringes of society afraid of castigation, further punishment and judgment. Rape crimes will remain under reported as long as rape culture supports the perpetrator instead of the victim. Rape culture will continue to persist and pillage as long as it requires men to admit they’re guilty and for the public to believe instead of trusting the testimony of women. As long as this trend exists, rape apologists will continue to hold forth in a society already heavily burdened with the power of patriarchy and male privilege. We will continue to be burdened with men who can do what they want because they operate in an economy that disregards the autonomy of survivors and instead institutionalises the protection of male sexual entitlement.

A year after his conviction, another celebrity, DJ Cleo, visited Brickz in prison – he is serving a 15 -year sentence. In spite of being found guilty, in spite of raping what was effectively a child and more so, in spite of showing no remorse and no empathy. The DJ tweeted an image of their reunion and captioned said image with: “We all run our own races, he fell along the way… but the race is not over.”

It shouldn’t need saying, but it does: sexual offences against women is not a race to be run and rape is absolutely not a stumbling block along the way, but here we are – in a society where men, with platforms and larger than life audiences, come to the defence of other convicted rapists with watered down motivations of an incredibly serious national crisis.

Author: Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of ‘Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa’. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

We have created a Rape Survivors Toolkit for survivors friends, family & colleagues:



In South Africa, cases about rape have become our daily news, whether you read it on the morning news headlines, watch it on prime-time television news or hear about it from your neighbour. The news has become synonymous to hearing about the weather.

However, in the wake of the #Metoo campaigns and #Thetotalshutdown, there is a group of women whose voices are still suppressed. These women put their lives on the line to keep themselves, their families and their children below the poverty line in a country where unemployment is at an average of 52.15 percent. Crimes perpetrated against these women are not taken seriously, by the law, their neighbours, their partners and even some feminists.

Women who do sex work, are part of those women who are pushed to the margins, where they’re vulnerable and exposed to sexual violence because they chose to sell sex.

In South Africa studies that have been done in the past decades have shown that 1 in 5 sex workers will be raped in a period of 12 months, by either people posing as clients, police officers or their intimate partners. This study shows that sex workers are at high risk of rape, particularly where sex work is illegal.

The rape of sex workers comes in different shapes and folds, and because the women already sell sex, they are often seen as easy targets for such crimes. In South Africa, the current criminalisation of sex work means sex workers are on the frontline of gender-based violence, in that the perpetrator knows they are unlikely to report it, and that they are vulnerable and unprotected. Sex workers are targets because of these factors and the fact that they are often subject to violent misogyny [1].

In an instance were one is raped by a client, sex workers are reluctant to report the case to the police as they fear identifying themselves as sex workers, which puts them in jeopardy of being arrested or abused by the police.

Where police are involved or are the perpetrators, even if a case is successfully opened at the police station, it is most likely that the docket will get lost, or the case will be closed due to lack of evidence. This happens because police officers often cover for each other. In a study done in Cape Town, 12% of street-based sex workers reported that they had been raped by policeman [2].

In the case of intimate partner violence, sex workers are often blackmailed by their partners and made to feel less worthy because they sell sex. Some of their partners are threatened by their independence and the fact that they are making money from other men threatens their partners masculinity which can lead them to act out by being violent.

The stigma and discrimination that is attached to doing sex work is the main cause of violence experienced by sex workers. However, they face many folds of victimization because of the moral perspectives people hold. To many, sex workers are seen as people who deserve abuse because they chose to sell sex.

The current full criminalisation of sex work in South Africa leaves sex workers vulnerable to violence, harassment and abuse, and does not provide them with the necessary protection of their rights. International experience shows that the police can help prevent violence against sex workers, but this requires a big change in attitude. Sex workers must be thought of as an at-risk group who needs protection, rather than as a ‘nuisance’ or even a group who ‘deserve’ violence and abuse.

Research has shown that decriminalisation of sex work respects the rights of sex workers, reduces gender-based violence and will increase community and individual safety [3].

What is Decriminalisation of Sex Work?

Decriminalisation of sex work is when all laws that criminalise sex work in a country are removed and sex work is governed by the same laws that affect other employment, such as occupational health and safety and employment legislation.

What is Sex Work/er?

Sex work is the provision of sexual services for money or goods. Sex workers are women, men and transgendered people who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual services, and who consciously define those activities as income generating even if they do not consider sex work as their occupation.

*The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust organisation.

About the authors

Lesego Tlhwale is a Communication Professional and current Media & Advocacy Officer at Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), a human rights organisation advocating for the health and human rights of sex workers. Lesego is passionate about advancing human rights of LGBTI people and sex workers.
Nosipho Vidima is a Human Rights Activist, Black Feminist, HIV Rights Activist and Womxn Rights Activist. She currently works at SWEAT (Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce) as a Human Rights and Lobbying Officer. Her daily work is Human Rights of sex workers nationally, where she insures that sex workers are reached with a holistic approach to accessing their basic and fundamental rights while accessing justice and legal recourse in the legal system that marginalises most women.


[1] Rangasami, j; constant, T; Manoek, S; Police Abuse of Sex Workers: Data from cases reported to the Women’s Legal Centre between 2011 and 2015; Women’s Legal Centre, 2016.

[2] Gould, C & Fick, N (2008). “Selling sex in Cape Town: Sex work and human trafficking in a South African city”. Pretoria/Tshwane, Institute for Security Studies.

[3] Manoek, S (2014). “Police Sensitisation Training Manual: A Guide for South African Police Service (SAPS) Officers to the Rights of Sex Workers and the LGBTI Community”. Women’s Legal Centre.

Rape Crisis Weekend Away

Rape Crisis is an organisation whose work is for the healing and empowerment of survivors of sexual violence. Our work is founded on feminist principles of advocacy, freedom from patriarchal violence and freedom of choice. Rape Crisis makes visible the needs as well as the experience and disempowering reception and treatment of survivors as they navigate the system in search of help and justice.

Our services are suitably placed in critical spaces which a survivor is likely to access. These spaces are the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) where we have counsellors who are first responders and provide emotional containment; our three offices in which both crisis intervention and long-term therapy are provided to reduce post-traumatic stress and enhance post-traumatic growth; and at the courts where there are court supporters who offer psychosocial support to assist survivors with readiness for the court processes.

Over time, as a result of work pressures and responding to the burden of gender based violence, we neglected ensuring that visibility and activity levels of feminism within the organisation remained a high priority, and possibly also to our gender based violence (GBV) sector peers. Due to the enabling partnerships we have formed with organisations in the sector and with funders- who support and value the work we do, Rape Crisis became part of the African Women’s Development Fund’s (AWDF) Leadership and Governance Project.

The Leadership and Governance Project entailed a coaching process for Barbara Williams (Counselling Coordinator, Athlone Office) and I, in which we were allocated a coach – Hope Chigudu – who mentored us on personal growth and feminist leadership. The other part of the project entailed training our Board, who discussed the organisation’s status and identified areas for development. We then submitted a proposal on how we would address the identified gaps. We were able to acquire the support of AWDF’s Maanda Governance Grant to dedicate time and resources to the well-being of the organisation and reigniting our feminism.

We embarked on this journey of feminist ‘recovery’ by way of the whole organisation going on a weekend retreat to Waterval Country Lodge in Tulbagh. This served a dual purpose for us, as it was an opportunity for a break (self-care) and a space where we would begin developing our Feminist Charter. As part of the lead up to the weekend away, conversations on understanding feminism and feminism at Rape Crisis were held with all programmes and at all levels of the organisation. 

In addition, a process of assessing feminism in our operations was facilitated with the use of a Feminist Tool, a questionnaire that looked into the visibility of feminism in the organisation, in the work we do for our clients and community, in the work we do in teams, in our management as well as our own individual commitment to Rape Crisis being a feminist functioning organisation. This process will conclude with the formulation of the Feminist Charter which will guide the understanding and expression of our feminism as an African organisation in the GBV sector.

Team building activity: helium pole

This has been an enriching experience: the coaching, the interactions with members of the Rape Crisis family in preparation for our weekend away and revival of our feminism. It all culminated in a wonderful getaway in which we questioned, discussed, suggested, sang-along, danced, shared meals, posed for photos and then walked away with renewed commitment to our work and to strengthening the links between our Road to Justice, Road to Recovery and Making Change programmes.

Written by Neliswa Tshazi, Court Support Coordinator

Photos by Alexa Sedgewick

Why #CSW63 Matters

In our previous blog The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) we described how UN Member States, civil society organisations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York to discuss matters of importance for the rights of women across the world.

South Africa being a member state is represented by Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Bathabile Dlamini who leads a government and civil society delegation that includes  Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu. The delegation will present South Africa’s report on the status of social protection system, access to public service, sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in South Africa. Minister Zulu will also participate in some of the ministerial  roundtables, high level interactive dialogue and interactive expert  panels. 

So why is it important to us that they are there? Susan Hutchinson of the Equality Rights Alliance in Australia wrote about this best two years ago when she said the following about why CSW matters:

“It’s an advocacy tool. CSW is an opportunity to bring an international component and lens to issues that organisations and activists advocate on locally and domestically. Having issues you advocate on locally, such as women’s access to affordable housing or access to domestic violence leave, recognised in international frameworks is powerful. This international dimension then adds another point of leverage in the domestic advocacy work we all do. Holding governments to account on the commitments they make at CSW creates additional pressure for policy reform.”

Since CSW presents an opportunity to bring an international component to issues that the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust advocates on locally we would like to take this opportunity to highlight the problem of high rape rates coupled with low conviction rates for rapists in South Africa. Our Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign advocates for the planned and funded rollout of sexual offences courts. These courts are the key to restoring faith in the criminal justice system as well as increasing conviction rates for rape and decreasing the secondary victimisation of rape survivors. Sexual offences courts are sensitive to the needs of the survivor undergoing an intense ordeal. The courts help to get more convictions and send more rapists to jail because they have specially trained court supporters available to support rape survivors when they testify. We need the South African government to provide rooms at courts for court support to take place in private. We need a strong criminal justice system to hold rapists accountable.

With all eyes on CSW63 and our own government delegation attending we hope to make this campaign more visible. You can help us. This is your chance to get South Africa and the issues women face some international attention and leverage.

Social Media Package

  • Check out the RSJC webpage and social media pages on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about this important campaign.
  • Your experiences and ideas on social protection, public services and infrastructure matter. Tell the world how you want to make a difference using #CSW63. Find our selection of Tweets on sexual offences courts in South Africa below and post them throughout the week. * Tag Minister Zulu on @LindiweZulu6, Minister Dlamini on @shahlesonke and of course @GovernmentZA.
  • Some of the South African NGOs represented include Ilitha Labantu, GenderLinks and the National Shelter Movement of South Africa. Follow and tag Ilitha Labantu on @IlithaLabantu,

Colleen Lowe-Morna on @clowemorna from GenderLinks on @GenderLinks and Claudia Lopes on @claudia1lopes and Joy Lange representing the National Shelter Movement of South Africa @NSM_ZA.

Social Media Tools

You can copy and paste this selection of Tweets or Facebook posts in support of improved sexual offences court infrastructure into your Twitter feed this week:

  • Sexual offences courts are important as they are sensitive to the survivor and help to get more convictions and send more rapists to jail. We need the #SouthAfricanGovernment to roll out the necessary infrastructure for these courts now! @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA @shahlesonke
  • We advocate for specially trained court supporters to be available to rape survivors when they testify. We need the South African government to provide rooms at courts for court support to take place in private. @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA #CSW63 @CSW63
  • #SouthAfrica has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. This needs to change! We need a strong criminal justice system with specialised courts. @RSJCampaign #CSW63_SA #CSW63 @RapeCrisis @shahlesonke @Government_ZA

-Written by Kathleen Dey