What message is the ANC sending to its violent men?
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,
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