What mes­sage is the ANC send­ing to its vi­o­lent men?

Sunday Times - - Opinion - ✼ Th­labi is the au­thor of Kh­wezi, The Re­mark­able Story of Fezek­ile Nt­sukela Kuzwayo REDI TLHABI

Pic­ture-freeze this: a young man vi­ciously kicks a woman in broad day­light. He kicks her while she is on the ground, hav­ing jumped from a mov­ing car. Po­lice are stand­ing there, un­per­turbed, un­car­ing, vis­i­ble. The man is the sec­re­tary of an ANC branch in Jo­han­nes­burg,

Thabiso Se­t­ona.

Fast-for­ward and you will see that he is not the only one who should be in the dock. Nkateko Makete, 52, is sur­rounded by three other ANC sup­port­ers. Two are kick­ing her and an­other looks ready to hit her with a big stick. On­look­ers are shocked, oth­ers run away, cam­eras are click­ing and the po­lice just stand there.

She must have been very afraid — not know­ing if she would make it past that solid wall of vi­o­lent mas­culin­ity alive.

Her fear was not mis­placed. Our his­tory is lit­tered with sto­ries of peo­ple who could not es­cape a blood­thirsty mob, suf­fered one blow af­ter an­other, and died.

This in­ci­dent rep­re­sents far more than a protest gone wrong. It is the quin­tes­sen­tial South African story. The story of vi­o­lence, poverty, ex­ploita­tion and politi­cians us­ing the poor to play their dirty games.

Makete was part of a group from an in­for­mal set­tle­ment in Or­ange Farm who thought they were trav­el­ling to Luthuli House to hand over a me­moran­dum de­mand­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery. She is a mem­ber of Black First Land First but for some rea­son had not been told that the or­gan­i­sa­tion would be protesting out­side Luthuli House.

Read be­tween the lines. Not only is the state fail­ing to pro­vide for the ba­sic needs of the poor, but those claim­ing to rep­re­sent them are play­ing them for fools.

The most jar­ring layer of this in­ci­dent is the brazen­ness with which vi­o­lence against women is per­pe­trated. We could say Makete was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that di­min­ishes the over­whelm­ing fact of life for South Africa women. When it comes to our bod­ies, ev­ery place is wrong and ev­ery minute, dan­ger­ous.

It is not just in our pri­vate spa­ces that the dan­ger looms, but pub­lic spa­ces, at any time of day, are par­tic­u­larly bru­tal and threat­en­ing.

What strikes me is the self-con­fi­dence, the lack of shame. Vi­o­lent mas­culin­ity does not care who is watch­ing. It is un­both­ered by the pub­lic gaze and per­forms its fe­roc­ity with the con­fi­dence of one who knows it has noth­ing to lose.

This pub­lic at­tack and hu­mil­i­a­tion of Nkateko

Makete, with po­lice look­ing on, re­minded me of Fezeka

Kuzwayo, known dur­ing the rape trial as Kh­wezi. Ev­ery day dur­ing the trial, ANC mem­bers and ad­mir­ers of

Ja­cob Zuma turned up to threaten and swear at her. They called her a bitch and threat­ened to burn her, right in front of the court.

Not one ANC mem­ber came out to ad­dress and be­seech them to stop the threats and sex­ist in­sults. They did not once ap­peal to the mob to sup­port Zuma with­out pos­ing a dan­ger to Fezeka and her mother. In­stead, af­ter the day’s pro­ceed­ings, the lead­ers joined their vul­gar sup­port­ers in song and dance.

Men be­ing crass, crude and in­tim­i­dat­ing is not dis­cour­aged in our so­ci­ety. They con­stantly claim the spa­ces and bod­ies of those less pow­er­ful than them­selves.

Sure, this video of ANC mem­bers at­tack­ing Makete was met with out­rage, just like that of former deputy min­is­ter Mduduzi Manana beat­ing a young woman. But the re­al­ity is that af­ter the out­rage, Se­t­ona and his com­rades’ lives will go on. We live in a so­ci­ety where vi­o­lent men are held to the low­est stan­dards.

If the ANC cared at all about the women who are kicked and beaten up in broad day­light then Manana would not have made it onto the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. He was fired by Zuma, but the party did not ex­pel him. In­stead, he made it onto the NEC — and with no less than the pres­i­dent of the ANC Women’s League de­fend­ing him and pa­thet­i­cally ar­gu­ing, “He is not the only one.” What a de­fence of vi­o­lent mas­culin­ity. We are a bro­ken peo­ple.

Vi­o­lent mas­culin­ity does not care who is watch­ing. It is un­both­ered by the pub­lic gaze

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