Opinionista Vanessa Burger 31 January 2014

An open letter to President Jacob Zuma, on the anniversary of the rape and murder of Anene Booysen

It has been almost a year since the rape, disembowelling and murder of Anene Booysen on 2 February 2013. At around the same time, you mentioned her case during your presidential address, stating: "..the brutal gang rape and murder of Anene Booysen and other women and girls ... has brought into sharp focus the need for unity in action to eradicate this scourge. The brutality and cruelty meted out to defenceless women is unacceptable and has no place in our country...such acts will not be tolerated."

Since then, countless other women and children have been brutalised; most recently, 16-year-old Kgomotso Rakgolane from Relela in Limpopo, who was discovered last week, sans hands, with cellphone and keys decorating her intestines.

During your 2013 address, you claimed: “I have directed law enforcement agencies to treat these cases with the utmost urgency and importance.”

The ire and frustration of the Relela residents can therefore be understood when two people community members suspected of involvement in Kgomotso’s butchery were released by police shortly after questioning, reportedly due to lack of evidence, while a third, the suspected boyfriend of the deceased, could not be found by police. Poor police service delivery, Mr President, is a frequent occurrence, and irrespective of the circumstances of this particular case, its persistence does nothing to engender faith in the criminal justice system’s ability to secure justice for victims.

When angry protestors then undertook to burn down the suspects’ houses, the ensuing rage resulted in the police allegedly shooting a 15-year-old boy who was reportedly unconnected with the protest. Later, when a 1,500-strong mob then tried to raze the Relela satellite police station in retaliation, another two protestors lost their lives to police guns.

It would appear the Relela community has little faith in your instruction to law enforcement agencies to “…treat these cases with the utmost urgency and importance.”

Perhaps, as has been revealed recently by Dr. Genine Josias, head of the Thuthuzela Forensic Centre at the Khayelitsha Hospital during the long awaited Commission of Inquiry into Khayelitsha policing, which your Minister of Police did his best to suppress, that while police face massive caseloads, issues of incompetence cannot be ignored. Dr Josias stated that it was unacceptable that 21 young girls were assaulted and raped before police took action. Do you contend, Mr President, that these cases were also afforded “…the utmost urgency and importance”?

And do you remember, Mr President, after calling for an end to the scourge of gender-based violence in your 2013 speech, that in your very next breath, you informed our nation that you would establish special courts to “deal with violent protestors”? It would appear you had as much faith in your own script as the people of Relela and Khayelitsha. Perhaps you had a premonition of things to come.

The score for protestors versus SAPS on the contested 2014 community battlefield now stands at 8:0 – an average of one protestor killed by police within every four days. We are only a month into the year and still have the elections to get through. A worrying thought with the police so firmly at the beck and call of your party.

The recent saturation deployment of security operatives during the launch of your party’s manifesto to screen the audience for wannabe boo-ers, in the face of widespread infiltration of our country by international crime cartels, our gracious hosting of the likes of crime boss Radovan Krejcir, and claims of ignorance by your Minister of State Security of his wife’s involvement in drug trafficking, speaks volumes regarding your security priorities and allocation of its mighty R3 billion budget. Perhaps you view the SAPS as your personal police force?

During your 2012 presidential address to the Security Cluster, you informed members its objective was “…ensuring that all South Africans feel safe and are safe.”

But how, Mr President, can we feel safe when women are disemboweled and raped and we are forced resort to anarchy to be noticed by your pet banker – Riah Phiyega – albeit only in her strident defence of your police’s actions and not to convene a special investigation into our exploding rape or police brutality stats?

Mr President, you have also made many statements which have been deeply offensive to women. Your assertions that women need motherhood to complete their education and your enthusiastic approval of traditions that require women prostrate themselves before men are but two examples that spring immediately to mind. Despite the best efforts of Mac-your-Minder, these comments remain at odds with your professed commitment to ending gender discrimination and particularly sexual crime, for which indeed a cloud remains over your own conduct in this regard.

Your attempts to buy the support of often exploitative tribal leaders and the tabling of such deeply patriarchal legislation as the Traditional Courts Bill has been at the expense of our Constitution, women’s rights and at times, even a perversion of your own culture.

With 30 officers at Khayelitsha Police Station handling on average 150 rape cases per month – a fairly common case load apparently for most township stations – it’s small wonder Relela, and many other communities, are increasingly resorting to mob justice and venting their frustration directly against the police, whose first duty is, even in your words, the safety of the people.

With no coherent anti-gender-based violence strategy in sight; a police chief appointed purely on the basis of her political loyalty and so clearly out of her depth she lurches embarrassingly from crisis to crisis; a police service at war with itself and the citizens it is required to serve; your prioritisation of your tribe, your interests, your dignity, your safety and your comfort above those of your citizens (it must be remembered that one of the justifications presented by your Security Cluster for the lavish security upgrades to your compound/palace/village/complex was the high incidence of rape in the area); and the diversion of vast security resources to serve your political purposes; justice for the likes of Kgomotso Rakgolane, Anene Booysen and thousands of other raped and butchered women and children, will remain a far-off pipe dream. So too, Mr President, will be the future stability of our country, regardless of how many protestors your police kill.

For while you are singing and dancing in your palace and you have probably by now long forgotten the name Anene Booysen, your people are bleeding and very, very angry. Like Marikana, Mr President, Anene has not been forgotten.


Vanessa Burger. DM


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