16 Days of point­less noise

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

Afew weeks ago, dur­ing an in­ter­view about be­ing abused by her part­ner, Graça Machel’s daugh­ter Josina Machel was pas­sion­ate as she con­sid­ered the causes of do­mes­tic abuse. She asked how it was pos­si­ble for men not to see their own moth­ers and sis­ters in the women they beat up.

“How dare they raise their hand to beat a woman? Men come out of women, men have sis­ters. And if they dare raise their hand to some­one who they pro­fess to love, how would they feel if some­one raised their hands to­wards their sis­ter?”

She went on: “My [young] son knows that if he dare raise a hand to­wards a woman, I will call the po­lice. Once he got up­set and wanted to hit his sis­ter, and I picked up the phone and said: ‘I will call the po­lice if you hit my daugh­ter.’”

On Wed­nes­day, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma launched the so-called 16 Days of Ac­tivism for no Vi­o­lence Against Women and Chil­dren. This lowly news­pa­per­man prefers to call it the 16 Days of Vi­o­lence, be­cause there is no ev­i­dence that it makes any dif­fer­ence. Year af­ter year, vi­o­lent men con­tinue to beat up their part­ners for 365 days. It is ar­guably one of the most mean­ing­less cam­paigns on the gov­ern­ment’s cal­en­dar.

Ar­bor Week, which is cel­e­brated in early Septem­ber, has more of an ef­fect than this lame ef­fort be­cause we get to watch a tree grow.

The mean­ing­less­ness of 16 Days was best il­lus­trated by the launch event in Naauw­poort vil­lage in North West on Wed­nes­day. It was a fes­tive af­fair that saw Solly Mo­holo lead the crowd in song: “Ha ke gopolola Zuma, ke tl­hakatl­hakana tl­hogo [When I think of Zuma, I lose my mind].”

Ac­cord­ing to a City Press re­port, the crowd promptly lost its mind and danced along. Nat­u­rally, the na­tion’s chief dancer and gig­gler joined in en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo out­did him­self with the ZCC’s mukhukhu dance. Sup­port­ers of the ANC Women’s League – the mu­si­cal out­fit that usu­ally per­forms out­side court – were in full voice and dance.

Mahumapelo also seemed to for­get what the oc­ca­sion was about and launched into po­lit­i­cal speak, en­cour­ag­ing his leader to stay strong in spite of peo­ple “who will go around block­ing your way”.

The gig­gling dancer did get around to ad­dress­ing the is­sue at hand, boast­ing about suc­cesses in gov­ern­ment ef­forts to fight the can­cer. He de­cried the na­tion’s vi­o­lent cul­ture, which led to peo­ple vi­o­lat­ing the rights of oth­ers. Vi­o­lence against women was an ex­ten­sion of this cul­ture.

“We need to con­front this prob­lem and be­gin to erad­i­cate the cul­ture of vi­o­lence,” he said.

As he droned on in his usual speech-read­ing pace and ca­dence, his au­di­ence drifted into bore­dom. They only emerged from their slum­ber to ap­plaud when he men­tioned that papgeld de­fault­ers would be black­listed.

Between now and the end of the cam­paign pe­riod, there will be many speeches. There will be pledges about re­dou­bling of ef­forts to fight abuse. On De­cem­ber 10, we will be told about the in­cred­i­ble suc­cess of the cam­paign and just how much it has raised aware­ness.

On De­cem­ber 11, life will go back to nor­mal. Men will beat up women. Women will scream. Neigh­bours will pre­tend they do not hear.

Ashamed of be­ing vic­tims, women will hide their abuse as if they are the per­pe­tra­tors. Abusers will con­tinue their ram­page.

Next Septem­ber, who­ever is 2016’s na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner will reel off dis­turb­ing sta­tis­tics that will show that the 16 Days was a waste of time.

There will be out­rage and calls for “some­thing” to be done. Anti-abuse bod­ies will pro­nounce that the num­bers are con­ser­va­tive be­cause of un­der­re­port­ing by women who don’t want to be outed as vic­tims. The months will roll by and, on Novem­ber 25, there will be yet an­other launch of yet an­other 16 days of mean­ing­less­ness.

Those in­volved in the 16 Days pro­gramme will ar­gue that it is harsh to say the cam­paign is mean­ing­less. They will say any­thing that raises aware­ness is use­ful and that a fo­cused blitz grabs the at­ten­tion of the pub­lic much bet­ter than per­ma­nent cam­paigns. They might have a point, but that is the sort of ar­gu­ment one would ex­pect from a mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor or a coke-snort­ing yup­pie at an ad­ver­tis­ing agency.

The fight against the abuse of women is not a prod­uct to be mar­keted to con­sumers. As has been said count­less times by count­less peo­ple, if there has to be a 16-day blitz, then it has to be sup­ported by a vis­i­ble and sus­tained ef­fort through­out the year. Other­wise, it is just point­less.

There also has to be a sus­tained ef­fort tar­get­ing to­mor­row’s men. Abu­sive men do not sud­denly be­come that way the day they be­come adults. Dis­re­spect for fe­male peers de­vel­ops early. Vi­o­lent ten­den­cies creep in when boys con­vince girls that “I hit you be­cause I love you”.

Th­ese ten­den­cies are nor­malised by a so­ci­ety that doesn’t ac­tively shun abusers. And the fight against abuse is triv­i­alised by mean­ing­less cam­paigns.

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