Face to face with bro­ken­ness of a bro­ken man

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

IT WAS around 2am on Satur­day, and I was driv­ing home. As I was ap­proach­ing the small vil­lage of Phake Rankaila in Mpumalanga, I saw two peo­ple wrestling.

I hit the brakes and I saw a man kick­ing, beat­ing and drag­ging a woman on the tarred road.

I stopped my car a few me­tres from them, then I made a con­scious de­ci­sion to make a U-turn and con­front him. My heart started beat­ing fast, I saw him let­ting her go, yet stand­ing very close to her.

I stopped in the mid­dle of the road with the haz­ard-lights on. I wound down the win­dow a lit­tle bit.

With­out me say­ing any­thing, the woman, who was cry­ing, wear­ing just a dress in the 4ºC tem­per­a­ture said; “Please take me home, please take me home. I want to go home with you.”

The fear and pain in her voice pierced my heart. But the guy who was hold­ing a brown bot­tle, not even steady as he stood, got closer to the car and ag­gres­sively said: “You are not tak­ing my girl­friend home.”

I hadn’t ut­tered a sin­gle word at this point; so I said to him: “Dumela Abuti, how are you?”

He then greeted me back, with a less hos­tile voice.

I asked him why he was beat­ing and drag­ging her. “Ke Cheri yaka” (she is my girl­friend). You won’t un­der­stand. We left the tavern to­gether to go to my house to sleep. When we got there, she had a change of heart. She told me that she wants to go home. I don’t want to rape her. She is my girl­friend.”

I made a plea with him: “May I please take her home?”

He replied with un­cer­tainty, “Yes, you may, but you are not tak­ing her home alone. I am go­ing with you, she is not get­ting into your car with­out me.”

This was un­der­stand­able. I could tell he was drunk. But his rea­son­ing was fair to an ex­tent. Still, this did not jus­tify what I wit­nessed.

While we were hav­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, I was try­ing to gain this guy’s trust and make him un­der­stand what he was do­ing was wrong; the woman ran away with­out any of us notic­ing. Or at least I did not see where she van­ished to in those dark bushes of the vil­lage.

To my sur­prise, when I asked him where she had gone; he non­cha­lantly said; “Don’t worry, she’s on her way home.”

I made an­other U-turn be­cause I knew she dis­ap­peared in the other di­rec­tion. I tried to search for her, but with no luck. Had she run straight down the road, I was go­ing to find her. But it looked like she was hid­ing not far from where we were.

I felt I failed her. She was so help­less at the mercy of an abu­sive boyfriend. All he cared about was to con­vince her to go back to his house with him.

This re­minded me of a quote by Fred­er­ick Dou­glass: “It is eas­ier to build strong chil­dren than to re­pair bro­ken men.”

Too many men hide be­hind ex­pen­sive suits. We hide un­der fancy ti­tles at work. Our bro­ken­ness is cam­ou­flaged by our posh ac­cents and lav­ish cars.

It goes be­yond that, even the poverty and lack of hu­mil­ity and self-love hides men’s bro­ken­ness.

I feared for my life. In as much as I wanted to cham­pion the “not in my name” cam­paign, the cir­cum­stances pushed me to think of my safety first.

See­ing a man be­ing proud to say, “Even when I beat her, she is my girl­friend” made me re­alise we have a long way to go.

I also had an epiphany. The mis­sion to build a new gen­er­a­tion of men through var­i­ous ini­tia­tives will help us breed a new crop. With the Young Men Move­ment (YMM) al­ready do­ing so much with vil­lage boys, there is some­thing one can be proud of.

I may have failed to pro­tect that lady from that bro­ken man, but I am con­tribut­ing to­wards build­ing a so­ci­ety of strong black boys in our com­mu­nity through YMM, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that aims to em­power black boys to be bet­ter men.

When they say #Al­lMenAreTrash, I al­ways knew that this was generic. I also knew that it was re­fer­ring to the per­pe­tra­tors, the friends of the ex­ecu­tor and those who are around when it hap­pens.

How­ever, I had for­got­ten all about the one im­por­tant as­pect, which is my safety. I hope she got home safely, and if she and many other women feel that men like my­self con­tinue to fail them, they should re­alise that some­times it is about our safety and sur­vival too.

• Ka­belo Cha­bal­ala is the founder of the Young Men Move­ment (YMM). E-mail: ka­be­lo03cha­bal­ala@gmail.com; Twit­ter: @Ka­be­loJay; Face­book: Ka­belo Cha­bal­ala

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.