Women’s Month: A Sham

It’s an annual play and we have all seen it before….

Every year in South Africa, we celebrate Women’s Month to commemorate the thousands of women who fought so bravely for equality during apartheid.

But it has become a month of lip service. Government departments praise their programs to end the scourge of gender based violence and spew dialogue about the initiatives that exist which put the needs of South African women first.

But let’s look at a more accurate test. The importance placed on women’s rights can be measured when a political figure is involved in the act of violating women. Enter, former deputy Minister of Higher Education, Mduduzi Manana.

Mduduzi Manana

Former deputy Higher Education Minister, Mduduzi Manana. CC Image courtesy of Agência Brasil Fotografias on Flickr. 

For most of this month, South Africans have been consumed with the story of Manana, after a video was released on social media, showing him beating a young woman as the men around him watched this. He later, in an audio clip, admits he slapped this woman. The media feasts on this story and it makes headlines everywhere.

And then came the grand moment when the ANC Women’s League had the stage to condemn this violence and represent the voice of all women in the country.

And all I can do is sigh as I write this…..

Questions are posed to the ANCWL President,  Bathabile Dlamini, on the Manana incident. An audio interview with the Sunday Times newspaper is published. This is what she says:

“Don’t start from him. If we want to say everyone who occupies a senior position in government we must know his track record because there are people who are worse than him….”

So this makes his actions okay then, because it’s just assault?

“As ANCWL it is our role to fight about issues of gender based violence. I don’t want to be part of those games of saying whether he should resign or not. In other parties there is sexual harassment and it is not treated the way it is treated in the ANC. I refuse that this issue be made a political tool. It is not a political tool….For now we have been saying Umuntu is innocent until proven guilty…”

Dlamini refuses to take a stand on the issue. She has disappointed thousands of South African women yet again. Many of us begin to have flash backs of the Jacob Zuma rape trial and the manner in which Khwezi was vilified.

On the one hand we have Dlamini saying she will not be dragged into this case which directly involves violence against women. On the other hand, you have her preaching that South Africa is ready for a female president as she announces that Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma will be one of the candidates running for the ANC presidency.

In an address where she announced  Dlamini -Zuma as the candidate backed by ANCWL, she says, “We need to be very vigilant…If people respect us, they must stop doing clandestine things during our month. Every year in parliament, we discuss women’s issues during this month….South African is a patriarchal country even the storyline is meant to use us as weapons or objects.”

Now let’s get back to Manana, who resigns from government.

In his carefully crafted PR statement, he apologises for his actions. “There is no excuse in the world that can justify what I have done and as much as I am utterly and completely shameful of the act, it’s not even about me,” he says.

But Manana’s resignation brings no justice for the woman who was slapped or for South African women who are constantly fighting against violence. It is merely an act, which was as a result of mounting public pressure and because of the impact it would have on the ruling party. Ultimately it was about saving face in a country where politics always takes precedence.

For me it’s just another reminder of how little we value women and their rights in our country. There is no political accountability for the actions of elected officials, from Bathabile Dlamini to Mduduzi Manana and many others.

Something else that gives me sleepless nights is the tendency of political heads to show more concern in Women’s Month. Why is it that if something is committed in this month it is made out to be ten times worse? Beating a woman is a horrific and an unjustifiable crime, whether it happens in January or in August. It shouldn’t be happening. Nor should we leave issues of women to be discussed in this month only.

What was once a month of celebrating women, is now a month for opportunists to express outcry and outrage.

I am glad it’s almost over. Because the truth is that once the month is over people go about and continue to violate the rights of women.

 

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TheJusticeLady

TheJusticeLady is a writer who wants to give a voice to the voiceless. She is an advocate for the rights of rape survivors. She keeps a close eye on the courts, the media and the role they play in shaping the manner in which society sees rape.

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Youth for Change.

STOP THE BUS DAY THREE

It’s already 30deg. Celsius this morning the temperature is going to rise everyone is getting ready. Sun hats! check, water bottles! check, sun block cream! check.  It’s off to Rawsonville police station to meet up with Sergeant Hurling Jordan from the crime prevention team. Sergeants Williams and Ferreira accompanied her to join the team to do door to door on the farms.

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Speaking to ladies in town.

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DSCN0871 DSCN0875 DSCN0897 DSCN0908 DSCN0975 While waiting on the sergeants the team took the opportunity and gave out pamphlets to passersby and also dropped  off some Rape crisis booklet at the police station.

The first farm Gabriere then it was Merwede. All the farm workers have return to work after the strike. The people who were at home received us well and invited us into their homes. They felt free to ask questions around rape and all types of abuse. The team also gave out pamphlets with the Rape Crisis contact numbers.

You would never had said that there was unrest in this area until the bus pulled off at the side of the road. Vineyards  were set alight on Tuesday during the strike.

Then it was door to door in Da Nova an Informal Settlement in Rawsonville. People in this area claim that they have no rape, domestic violence and abuse, but while others say there is.This community was encouraged to report crime and to break the silence.

The team has to do an interview at slot at 12pm  Valley fm Radio.The Topics were Myths, how to support a survivor.   Shaamiela, Tuthu and Thobeke explained what the survivor has to go through if there is no support for her.This talk was done in Xhosa, Afrikaans and English.Listeners  were encourage to support the survivors and not to protect the perpetrators. DSCN0981The team  left for  Zwelethemba a community just outside Worcester. The leader of this youth group a lady social worker named Thembeka, invited Rape Crisis. There were 27 youth, ages 14-20 years.The youth does outreach in this area and is involved in many projects.  This group Zwakala Youth for Christ engaged in the talk ask questions and showed much interest. They wanted to know why survivors feel emotional at court, when are survivors ready to testify, can men be rape, when to disclose and when is it a gang rape, these are the type of questions the group asked.The two facilitators Evelynne and Tuthu answered all their questions and  addressed all their concerns, they were also encouraged to network with other Organisations.

It’s 5pm the team is off to our accomadation to debrief and to pack for the next day.

Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust wishes to thank our donor Department of Social Development (DSD)  that made Stop the Bus 2012 possible.  Department of Social Development Provincial Logo

Slut Walk Joburg – speeches and footage