Why the po­lice re­luc­tance to deal with Manana?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

I DES­PER­ATELY wanted to write some­thing pos­i­tive this week. Af­ter all, this is the week when we are sup­posed to cel­e­brate the glo­ri­ous strug­gle for equal­ity waged by South African women, and we re­call the march on Au­gust 9, 1956 by thou­sands of women to the Union Build­ings in Pre­to­ria in protest at pass laws.

For those too young to re­mem­ber, pass laws were in­tro­duced to keep Africans out of the cities be­cause the apartheid gov­ern­ment be­lieved they should re­strict them­selves to ru­ral home­lands. A pass be­came a hated doc­u­ment that all Africans had to carry with them, es­pe­cially in the cities. If you were found with­out one, you could be sent to jail.

But we have moved on and now have a democ­racy where we can all live wher­ever we want in South Africa. Of course, there are some peo­ple, es­pe­cially in the West­ern Cape, who be­lieve for­eign­ers should be wel­comed in our city and not peo­ple from the Eastern Cape, but that is a sub­ject for an­other col­umn.

I was de­ter­mined to be pos­i­tive this week and to re­mem­ber the many amaz­ing women who played a part in shap­ing the man I have be­come. Among these are my mother, who worked as a do­mes­tic worker or any other job she could find, but still found time to teach me to read so that, by the time I went to school, I could read books that were nor­mally read by chil­dren who were al­ready at school for a few years.

My two older sis­ters looked af­ter me when my mother was not around. I was the youngest of five chil­dren but my broth­ers never seemed to care for me in the same way as my sis­ters did.

Since then, there were many other women in my life, in­clud­ing aunts and cousins, but my spe­cial women re­main my wife and three daugh­ters, who put up with me and all my pe­cu­liar­i­ties (for want of an un­der­stated word).

But just as I was pre­par­ing to be pos­i­tive, the news broke about the deputy min­is­ter of higher ed­u­ca­tion, Mduduzi Manana, who as­saulted a woman at a night club over the week­end.

What an­gered me most about this case is not that it hap­pened in Women’s Month – any as­sault on a woman is bad, ir­re­spec­tive of when it hap­pens – but the re­sponse from the au­thor­i­ties.

To say the po­lice were slack is a com­pli­ment. It seemed po­lice were try­ing to find rea­sons not to ar­rest the of­fend­ing deputy min­is­ter, hid­ing be­hind the need for a “proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion”. This was, of course, af­ter Manana con­fessed that he “slapped” the woman. Video ev­i­dence sug­gested the as­sault was, in fact, more vi­o­lent than that.

Out of re­spect for my mother and all the women who helped to raise me, I have a zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to vi­o­lence against women. It is some­thing I prac­tise through­out my life and not only for 16 days in De­cem­ber, like some politi­cians.

Per­haps be­cause this as­sault fell out­side of the 16 days when politi­cians fo­cus on vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren, most po­lit­i­cal par­ties were not very vo­cal on what I con­sider to be a se­ri­ous is­sue. Vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren is one of the most se­ri­ous is­sues af­fect­ing es­pe­cially poorer com­mu­ni­ties and per­pe­tra­tors will find so­lace in the po­lice re­luc­tance to act against Manana.

At the very least, I would have ex­pected Manana to be ar­rested im­me­di­ately, or to give him­self up at a po­lice sta­tion. He ad­mit­ted his guilt, even if only par­tially, and he must be pre­pared to ac­cept the con­se­quences.

The only way to deal with se­ri­ous crimes – and I con­sider this to be one – is by mak­ing ex­am­ples of per­pe­tra­tors. Crim­i­nals must know they will be ar­rested and pros­e­cuted and, if con­victed, they will spend time in jail.

At the time of writ­ing, the po­lice min­is­ter had an­nounced that Manana was go­ing to ap­pear in court. Why an an­nounce­ment? Why not just ar­rest him and take him to court? The po­lice and the rul­ing party are send­ing out a wrong sig­nal with re­gards to this case. But, I sup­pose, this is not un­ex­pected given that peo­ple more prom­i­nent than Manana have got­ten away with per­pe­trat­ing even worse crimes against women and not much hap­pened to them.

As we cel­e­brate Women’s Month, we need to re­mem­ber the bad men who give all men a bad name.

These men make it dif­fi­cult for us to cel­e­brate women fully and freely be­cause, as long as peo­ple like them are around, women will al­ways be in dan­ger of as­sault or worse. If Manana does not want to be seen to be one of those men, he should have done the right thing. He should have faced the con­se­quences of his ac­tion, handed him­self over for ar­rest and re­signed from his po­si­tion in gov­ern­ment. Oh, I for­got, we don’t do that in South Africa.

Fisher is an in­de­pen­dent me­dia pro­fes­sional. Fol­low @ry­land­fisher on Twit­ter

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