Face to face with brokenness of a broken man
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: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KabeloJay; Facebook: Kabelo Chabalala