Time up for abusers
It’s Women’s Month for August but the last two weeks have not been all smooth-sailing.
There have been several high profile cases of women at the wrong end of beatings. There was Mandisa Duma and her cousin who were roughed up by Deputy Higher Education Minister Mduduzi Manana over a political argument.
Then came Social Development Minister Bathabile Dhlamini who appeared to ghettoise the issue of violence against women, by saying that other men have done worse things to women, and therefore, Manana should be left alone.
There have been several cases of men murdering spouses and girlfriends, including the tragic slaying of 30-year old Kate Chiloane, a Mpumalanga primary school teacher, by her gun-toting husband—right in front of her charges. It does not matter to us the man later killed himself.
Then came the case of Grace Mugabe, who was in the country for treatment to her foot, but who found enough time to badly assault a young model she found with her two sons at a Johannesburg hotel. The model, 20-year old Gabriella Engels was left with a deep head wound.
On Wednesday, 52-year-old Ntombizonke Patricia Dywili was shot dead in Port Elizabeth as she left for work, in what appeared like a contract hit. The SAPS in Port Elizabeth believe that the dead woman witnessed the fatal shooting of a neighbour last Saturday.
Here in Grahamstown protesters gathered outside court after a woman was found dead and her body burned, in a ditch. Her boyfriend faces a murder charge.
It is important for us, to first remember the victims of this wanton violence by repeating their names again and again. The female victims of violence, who choose to go public, also lessen the stigma associated with being abused. It is not right for anyone to feel ashamed of being a victim of abuse, but many women decline to press charges. Some do it because their abusers are also the sole breadwinners; others fear even more violence; and yet others worry about being ostracised in their communities where men often have more social capital.
Groups like the ANC Women’s League harm their cause when their leaders waffle over the issue of women’s abuse. In the case of Deputy Minister Manana for example, it does not matter how many other men have beaten up their wives or girlfriends, his mere admission to the assault should have led to his instant dismissal from government. Minister Fikile Mbalula can claim that Manana is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ all he likes, but all President Jacob Zuma needs is a confession from this man, to fire him.
When men – especially those in power – start to feel some real consequences for their thuggish behaviour towards women, they will start reforming their ways.
Harmony between men and women is essential. But first, prospective abusers must be terrified of ever touching a woman.