South Africa

Gender-Based Violence

Gender activists rally to support Babes Wodumo after assault video goes viral

Gender activists rally to support Babes Wodumo after assault video goes viral
SANDTON, SOUTH AFRICA – JUNE 14: Babes Wodumo during the 2018 Sunday Times Generation Next Awards at the Sandton Convention Centre in Sandton, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / John Liebenberg)

As Mandla ‘Mampintsha’ Maphumulo, the man filmed slapping Gqom artist, Babes Wodumo, appears in court on charges of assault, gender activists are rallying around the musician. They say the focus should not be on how the abuse was highlighted or that she didn’t leave earlier but on supporting the young star and acknowledging the bravery that her decision to expose her alleged abuser took.

In the late hours of 3 March, well-known Gqom singer Bongekile Simelane (Babes Wodumo) took an extraordinary decision – to live stream a domestic fight that she and her partner, Mandla ‘Mampintsha’ Maphumulo were having and which ultimately saw Maphumulo slapping and verbally abusing her. The video went viral and has since divided opinion on Simelanes action, with some social media commentators accusing the couple of pre-planning the video as a publicity stunt.

Simelane has not commented since the video went public but has laid a charge against Maphumulo who has since been arrested and appeared in court before being released on R2,000 bail.

This is not the first time that there has been speculation that Maphumulo has been accused of abusing Simelane.

In May last year, Simelane was asked on live radio by Metro FM host Masechaba Ndlovu whether or not  Maphumulo was abusing her. At the time Simelane did not respond but left the studio in tears. Later Sowetanlive reported that Simelane said people who saw the video of her crying incorrectly “connected the dots based on what was said. But actually‚ I was just shocked”.

On Monday Simelane’s sister, Nondumiso, said Sunday’s video was not a publicity stunt nor was it pre-planned.

Babes lips are swollen but she didn’t go to the hospital after the beating and Mampintsha is nowhere to be found, he’s gone AWOL,” Nondumiso told TshisaLIVE.

On Tuesday, ENCA reported that Maphumulo had laid counter charges of assault against Simelane. Police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo denied that this was the case.

The incident has brought into sharp focus the manner in which alleged abuse victims are responded to when they finally break their silence.

Marike Keller, acting policy development and advocacy unit manager, Sonke Gender Justice, said society needed to “to steer clear of falling into the trap of victim blaming of any kind, and judging the way in which she chose to ‘expose’ her abuse is a slippery slope towards victim blaming”.

Social media commentary ranged from Simelane having provoked Maphumulo, that there were two sides to the incident and that a man wouldn’t just hit a woman for nothing.

Each individual has their own process to go through and instead of judging her, we should be supporting her. Society has a huge role to play in providing a positive and supportive environment in which to encourage reporting,” Keller said.

CEO at Gender Links, Colleen Lowe Morna, said when gender-based violence happened in private, it was difficult to prove and this may have motivated Simelane to live stream the alleged abuse.

Video provides the possibility of capturing crucial evidence. Putting it out on Instagram is a personal choice, which I respect. Social media – witness the #MeToo, #TotalShutdown campaigns, has provided a platform for women to speak up and speak out about their experiences,” says Lowe Morna.

Simelane, 23, and Maphumulo, 36, a music producer, have known each other since Simelane was 15 years old and just about to break onto the music scene.

For gender activist Vanessa Govender, Simelane’s decision to expose her abuse in this public way “shows her immense strength and courage to allow people to see her at her most vulnerable. This was an act of desperation and possibly the most powerful plea for help a victim could ever issue without even uttering a word”.

Govender, herself a survivor of domestic violence, said it was “ludicrous, if not a worrying indictment, that there are people who find what she did offensive and who are more outraged by the fact that she chose to expose her abuse and her abuser in such a public fashion than they are by the cracking slaps and brutality of the assault. We know from what her own father has described that Babes had been assaulted previously and sometimes in the presence of others, let that sink in for a second; he assaulted her in front of others!

Clearly Mampintsha thought himself untouchable by abusing and demeaning her in front of others,” she said.

Govender said she salutes Simelanes “bravery and courage”.

She is a woman who is determined to take control of her life! And this act is just another colossal shift in the ever-changing narrative of women not just in South Africa but globally. What Babes has done for thousands of young girls and women in this country is profoundly powerful. From the townships to the suburbs she has sent a message that they should never accept, hide or excuse abuse be it their own or someone they know. Domestic abuse is no longer a private shame and those who object to what she did are inadvertently saying that it is. Victims are taking back their power.”

Govender said ordinary police officers were “not always best equipped mentally and emotionally to deal with cases of domestic violence” and have often dealt with victims of abuse and rape insensitively which can be a deterrent to others.

There has to be a specialised designated unit that is tasked with dealing with domestic violence… that Babes chose to expose her abuse as it happened highlights concerns expressed by her family about police corruption and their fear that police wouldn’t and couldn’t help them. If I look back to my own experience in an abusive relationship I remember as a journalist covering stories of abuse and rape where victims were shunted around and struggled to get justice and it instilled in me an even greater fear of ever speaking out or drawing attention to what was happening to me,” she said.

Political parties have once again responded with outrage to the high profile case.

Gauteng ANC Gauteng called on society to “expose and report acts of violence against women and children” while the EFF in KZN laid charges against Maphumulo.

DA Leader Mmusi Maimane challenged Maphumulo to a boxing match by tweeting: “I’d challenge him to 3 rounds on a boxing ring.”

It is obvious political parties are exploiting this case to notch up points ahead of elections and that’s okay because these are people with huge followings and if they are seen to be condemning abuse and ostracising the abuser then that filters down to the homes and streets of their constituents and maybe, hopefully, it can inspire change in attitudes and behaviour. And maybe this can save a few lives. For me that is all that matters,” said Govender. DM

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