Opinionista Lesley Perkes 12 February 2013

Our brothers: the secret story

Presidents and kings all over the world use rape as a weapon of war and business. Not only against women. And war is rape. And corruption is rape. And giving your child a backhander or a fist is rape. And telling people who don’t agree with you that they must shut up is rape. This is the status quo; this is what all our children are learning. Not what you say but what you do.

There’s a part of her that appreciates why people need to stand together to march against rape. There’s another part that stands apart from the campaign(s) that now includes drummers against rape, celebrity endorsements, programming content, branding, probably official media sponsors… and even the current president being asked if he will include an anti-rape sentence or two in his upcoming state of the National Address.

This is the same man who danced outside his very own trial for rape, in the street, while eating birthday cake, in the lunch break outside the court – before the verdict.

It appears the campaign is to be entertaining. Rape in Joburg is now trending on Twitter. I am reminded by many not to lose my sense of humour. But I have.

Tomorrow someone will say what happened? Where did rape go?

She cannot bear it. She understands a march for free expression being entertaining, so why not this? Why should huge protests against rape not be entertaining? The xenophobia march had moments of pleasure. 

She is wary that voicing her dismay may alienate when the opposite is what she seeks.

Good men and women everywhere are calling for the protests. They say “like in India” when a woman had steel rods stuck inside her until she was so wounded she had to be tortured more in a hospital before she died. And in India they also say she lost her honour. Fuck that. They lost theirs. And even though they rose up and defied the status quo, the status quo carries on, relentlessly. Just like here. Just like everywhere. Only we have rape on steroids. We win in the Gini coefficient gap and the rape stakes. 

Don’t talk your country down, she says to herself.

I am not, she says to herself.

I am talking because I love this land.

She wonders how much those protests help to stop anyone growing up so badly that they would want to do that to someone else. These people who risk everything – death sentences in some places – to enjoy hurting someone else so much?

She loves many of the people who have committed to the campaign(s), likes and respect many others. But ever since she was raped she has been preoccupied with an intense need to understand: why anyone would want … and act on wanting … to rape/murder someone else? She says this latter murder word on purpose. 

She is convinced that unless people take on the underlying we may as well just fucking lie down and spread our legs. We can use our placards as a pillow while our children grow up surrounded by violence. Presidents and kings all over the world use rape as a weapon of war and business. Not only against women. And war is rape. And corruption is rape. And giving your child a backhander or a fist is rape. And telling people who don’t agree with you that they must shut up is rape.


Everything seems to become 16 days or 1 billion or some other V campaign and meanwhile, for every rapist caught and convicted … rare … there are so many in the queue, so many being brought up right now to stand in that queue. She reads that a woman raped in the Middle East has been convicted to a jail term and that the perpetrator has been promoted. This is the status quo. This is what all our children are learning. Not what you say but what you do.

The man who raped her – and quite a few others – was sentenced to death and was executed the following year. She never has felt settled about this. She’s not against the death penalty because it is trendy. She is against it because she feels responsible … not guilty, not ashamed.

Meaning, what is she doing to help? All she has is her own truth and it could be completely wrong. She knows that but says it anyway, seeking a conversation that is not about her and what she goes through. Seeking a conversation that is about men. About what they go through. Where angels fear to tread.

He was a few years older than her at the time of the rape. He was from Lesotho with a Standard 6. His name was Paulos Sekonyane Fofo. Hardly anyone who knew about him from the media, where he became famous as FOFO or one of the two infamous YEOVILLE SERIAL RAPISTS, knew his name or anything about him. His rapes appear to have been complicated by racism. In the appeal court his utterance in mitigation was to say that he was a sick man. She agrees with that.

Lazarus Mazingane, also: He is the NASREC SERIAL KILLER who was born in jail and who is there now again, in Sun City as far as she knows. He is going to die in there after serving hundreds of years. She thinks 700 years. Imagine being born in jail.

These names stare her in the face every time she looks at the pre-printed placards to see if she can find a way to fit in without disowning herself. Anene Booysens’ name is also staring at her. The only reason we know her name is because she died of injuries that the newspaper reports say are too horrific to describe. If she had not died it is more than likely we would never know her name.

The family would most likely have kept it a secret. For what? To preserve her dignity. Or their dignity? For shame.

Why does she care about Paulos’s mother and father? Why does she care about him at all? People like him? She feels as if there is something inside her preoccupation: the potential conversation that she has sought for decades. She asks men how many of them have been raped. The response is silent. The response sweats.

She thinks then that this – this dark silence – is the answer – but can get no confirmation. Instead she reads on Twitter that “many men are just assholes who rape because they can”. She won’t believe it. She loves people. She is scared.

It is most unfortunate, she thinks, but these murderers of love are our brothers, children, husbands, lovers and even friends. And many of them have been fucked up for generations. Not only by other men. But by the status quo, the inurement, even by the grandmother with her very own scary well-intended rituals.

With rape so pervasive, so commonplace, our daily bread, it could hardly be something of which people are unaware.

So what does more awareness help? For what are these branded campaigns? To enable the careless to show they care with ease? To create a safe environment? To restrict the conversation to hatred? To say we did something? We are trying? We are together? We care? Click a cause. Go out for the day in solidarity? Make a noise? Show the government the people will not have it. Oh, like the government can do something. She knows as she says it that it is not like that. She knows that probably most of the women participating have been raped themselves. Some things, she thinks, are indeed as hard as iron rods.

Listening to people call for the death penalty and castration on the radio. Until it is their son, she thinks.

Seems to me we do not love enough. The numbness that enables us to get out of bed in the morning and drive past children begging at our windows has robbed us of our feelings. This is how the status quo is maintained. 

Our own brothers and fathers and lovers are rapists and murderers.

Why is this piece written in the third person? Is it because she wants to be anonymous? No, hardly. She has never been ashamed she was raped. She never felt dishonoured… though she is aware that there are people who think she should be. 

And she is aware of how much speaking openly about such complicated feelings can be quite shocking for people who think that the secrets we all share should be kept secret. In case someone knows that we are all alcoholics, rapists, murderers… or we have family wreaking havoc in our lives and we keep them in the cupboard at home when we go to march.

I am sorry in advance. For all of us. Damaged goods. DM


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