No holy cows in hate cases

Misog­yny and hate speech can­not be left to in­sti­tu­tions to deal with in­ter­nally

Mail & Guardian - - Comment & Analysis - Saro­jini Nadar & Tinyiko Maluleke

The year 2019 is the year of the pig in the Chi­nese zo­diac. Al­though it sym­bol­ises pros­per­ity, its in­famy as the epit­ome of greed lingers in the mind. The Rev­erend Vuk­ile Me­hana, a se­nior Methodist Church of South­ern Africa min­is­ter, the ruling party’s chap­lain gen­eral and a highly net­worked pri­vate and busi­ness sec­tor leader, seems to have in­ad­ver­tently ush­ered in the South African edi­tion of the year of the pig — the male chau­vin­ist pig.

What does Me­hana have in com­mon with Ma­bel Jansen, Adam Catza­ve­los and Saloshna Mood­ley? That their “pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions” or so­cial me­dia rants were “un­fairly” made pub­lic? No. We can­not “un­know” what we know, namely that Me­hana holds deroga­tory and de­mean­ing views about his fe­male col­leagues in the Methodist Church and per­haps about women in gen­eral.

What do these peo­ple have in com­mon? Hate. All seem to drink from the same old South African foun­tain of hate and big­otry and har­bour a deep-seated dis­dain for their fel­low hu­mans.

Like Catza­ve­los’s, Mood­ley’s and Jansen’s con­tempt for black peo­ple, Me­hana’s dis­dain for his fe­male col­leagues is pal­pa­ble. His recorded words are ut­tered with fright­en­ing con­vic­tion, like a be­liever ef­fort­lessly ex­plain­ing long and deeply held ar­ti­cles of faith.

Me­hana “in­tro­duces” his col­league, the Rev­erend Nom­p­ithizelo Sib­hidla, de­spite her train­ing and or­di­na­tion, as “ngum­fazi oth­eni lo … op­utya­putya nez­i­fuba za­madoda?” [What kind of a woman is this who fid­dles with men’s chests?]”

Later in the record­ing, he asks: “Bathini abafazi bala­madoda [qa] kukho lom­fazi onam­a­bele amakhulu op­utya-putya iziphika za­madoda? [What do the wives of these men think when there is this woman with big breasts fondling the chests of (their) men?]”

Me­hana seems to re­cast the rit­ual of rob­ing into an act of in­de­cency. He does this by re­duc­ing Sib­hidla’s ac­tions to a “fondling of men’s chests” and by mak­ing a body-sham­ing ref­er­ence to her “large breasts”.

Im­ply­ing that Sib­hidla has fraud­u­lently ap­pro­pri­ated some for­bid­den power, ex­clu­sive to male priests, he asks: “un­om­p­ithizelo u yithatha phi lento ayen­zayo? [From where does Nom­p­ithizelo get this ten­dency?]”

If Sib­hidla can­not robe the men, can she touch their fore­heads when she blesses them? Can she serve them com­mu­nion? And when she does, how far must she stand from the un­touch­able chests of men? Can she bury the dead and min­is­ter to the sick, in spite of her “big breasts”?

To­gether with his tele­phonic side­kick, Ray­mond Sibanga, Me­hana sug­gests that the men who have been robed by Sib­hidla should re­pu­di­ate this, or the church should do it for them. He pro­ceeds to equate young men’s guild rob­ing to male cir­cum­ci­sion. This is so far-fetched that it bog­gles the mind.

He seems to think that, be­cause he is an African the­olo­gian, he does not need to care about pa­tri­archy and gen­der in­sen­si­tiv­ity, which he re­fers to as “rub­bish”. But an African the­ol­ogy of lib­er­a­tion must care about pa­tri­archy and gen­der in­sen­si­tiv­ity.

Many African male the­olo­gians have long re­sponded to the call by their sis­ters in the strug­gle to recog­nise the blind spots, even in their own lib­er­a­tion the­olo­gies, and have started to re­spond pos­i­tively. Ex­po­nents of black and African the­olo­gies of lib­er­a­tion such as Des­mond Tutu, Itume­leng Mos­ala, Musa Dube, Mercy Jean-marc Ela, Mercy Oduy­oye, Manas Buthelezi, Is­abel Phiri and Al­lan Boe­sak, to men­tion but a few, would never al­low them­selves to be as­so­ci­ated with the kind of African the­ol­ogy that Me­hana seems to es­pouse.

In an ar­ti­cle on the hypocrisy of the churches re­gard­ing the Ti­mothy Omo­toso rape trial, Saro­jini Nadar ar­gued that there is a golden thread that links the lived teach­ings of the church and the seem­ingly “de­viant” be­hav­iour of the likes of Omo­toso. Sim­i­larly, the ut­ter­ances of Me­hana may not be an ex­cep­tion to, but the re­flec­tion of, main­stream think­ing.

The re­quest by the Methodist Church to deal with the Me­hana mat­ter in­ter­nally must be re­jected.

What do Jansen, Catza­ve­los and Mood­ley not have in com­mon with Me­hana? They were ei­ther fired, re­signed or taken off a plane.

Me­hana has is­sued an apol­ogy. To back this up, he should re­sign his board mem­ber­ships, church po­si­tions and ANC chap­laincy po­si­tion. The least these or­gan­i­sa­tions can do is to ask Me­hana to step aside.

If not, we might as well brace our­selves for yet an­other South African year of the pig.

Saro­jini Nadar holds the Des­mond Tutu re­search chair in re­li­gion and so­cial jus­tice at the Univer­sity of the Western Cape. Tinyiko Maluleke is a re­search fel­low at the Cen­tre for the Ad­vance­ment of Schol­ar­ship at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria

Deroga­tory views: Rev Vuk­ile Me­hana should re­sign from his po­si­tions, the au­thors ar­gue. Photo: Felix Dlanga­mandla/foto24/gallo Im­ages

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.