Defend Truth


We have lost the very fabric of our society. We are a broken people


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

The right to life for women and young girls is no longer an absolute right. If it was, we would have been able to stop this slaughter.

How many times must I say I’m disgusted? How many times must I gaze upon some men and see pigs, trash, chauvinists? And indeed, how many times must I call for action. From our government and from our men. I feel so helpless as a man, all one can do is educate one’s son and daughter about gender rights, respect towards each other, about your body being sacred and about non-sexism.

I have endured a lot for my country over the years. I have been “on the run” from security police, I have been captured by the same apartheid security apparatus and I have had my fair share of police brutality on the Cape Flats, in my mother’s house, in church and in police cells. I have hated, I have forgiven, and I have regretted.

And because of all of this, I am fully aware that we still have a transformation project in this country that continues. And I remain committed to such an endeavour, but if there’s one matter that makes me think twice about the future of my beloved country, it is this continuous femicide, raping and murdering of women and girl children. If there is one thing that makes me fear for my children and their future it is this sick phenomenon. And what frustrates me more is that I have no clue how to rid our society of it and nor do most of my male friends.

We try to behave in appropriate ways toward our fellow female counterparts, try to treat our partners with respect and dignity and yes, contrary to opinions out there, we do when noticed take issue with each other when we see one of us stepping out of line. But this is a far cry from the men out there that have no regard for women and girls. All they see is sex objects, inferior human beings that must be put right, and they are man enough to execute this.

According to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, “Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women” and “violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men”.

As Women’s Month draws to a close and spring greets us all, we witness gruesome acts of violence against women in our country.

Imagine a young woman walking to the nearest post office, to send a parcel or to collect a parcel. Then you are met with a predator, a man that want to satisfy his disgusting sexual urges, who beats you up, rapes you, dehumanises you and, because of wanting to cover up the shame, kills you. What kind of sick bastard must you be, preying on the vulnerable and the innocent?

Then we have a beautiful woman who for all intents and purposes pulled herself out of the working class doldrums and made something of herself. Who would have thought, a boxer? Not only out of a passion for the sport but also to be able to defend herself from any and all dangers. But alas, this same role model of a woman killed by her police officer husband. He took his service pistol and he shot her dead, dead, dead.

A prominent figure in our society, Thandi Ndlovu, was the consummate role model for young and old women. She followed her heart into the military camps of the liberation army of the ANC, returned and got her hands dirty, building up a formidable construction company, and ploughed back into her communities at every turn. She was such a strong woman. And yet a man in her life constantly wanted to rip it all from her – beat her, abuse her, constantly threaten her. A life of fear, and so she had to have a bodyguard to protect her from this man. This pig, trash and predator. What prompted her family, her blood, to step forward at her funeral, says it all. Is this the eventual end for all the women and girl children in South Africa? Abuse, rape, murder, then a shallow grave, where we throw soil to bury our collective shame, just like Sis Thandi Ndlovu?

In a previous article, I tried to dissect this scourge in our society. That was more than a year ago, but we are still here as if this bus never left the station. Our inaction and acceptance is deafening.

A very dear friend of mine had this to say and I have to fully concur with him; Rudy Oosterwyk, I too am in shock, my brother:

We have jumped headfirst into a ghastly abyss where women and young girls are tortured and brutally murdered. I am not sure how we must climb out of this very dark place. It feels as if we are unable to stop this violence that renders us a wasteland of lives taken, families broken, communities in despair and all of us feeling helpless.

To take the life of another person must be one of the hardest things to do. I am devastated with the ease in which this torturous violence is meted out to women and young girls. The absolute disregard for human life is so very, very frightening.”

He continues, “I want to hide my little girl.”

These men who do these unspeakable deeds to women and young girls must be arrested and prosecuted effectively.

But I know that with every murder, every rape, every violation of the rights of woman and girl-children, our justice system also stands to blame. Our courts must stand in shame. Our police must be prosecuted for ineptitude, our government must be held to account for the defilement of our women and young girls. Government’s response to this femicide over the last two-and-a-half decades remains weak, unco-ordinated and indifferent.

A women’s month, a progressive Constitution, a woman in the presidency, a Children’s Act, will not save women and young girl children from this extermination.

The right to life for women and young girls is no longer an absolute right. If it was, we would have been able to stop this slaughter.

Our communities have become abattoirs for women and young girls. It is disturbing to think that it will remain so for a very long time still. Nothing, nothing will come of our efforts. Nothing will come of our protest, our writing, our public displays of disgust. How do we stop the butchery of women and young girls?

The communities know who they are, other men know who they are. They listen to their vile stories; they laugh at their account of the rape and the torture and the murder of women and young girls. They eat up word for word the abhorrent accounts and make smut of our society, of women and young girls.

For a long time now our grandmothers, our mothers, our wives, our partners, our sisters and our daughters have not been safe. This will remain so indefinitely, as long as the drug dens remain open, as long as we don’t effectively prosecute and rehabilitate, as long as our judges and prosecutors and lawmakers remain unaccountable for the many errors in law that they make and, through that, betraying the right to life of women and young children.

It is even more alarming that the spectator value of this slaughter increases as the body count rises. We become detached, an inhumane distance festers between us and the victim and the affected family. We wait for the next newsfeed, we read, we become angry; two days later, we move on, until the next rape and murder.

We (all of us) will sadly have this conversation again next week, and in December, and in 2020, and in 2021, and in 2022 and in 2023. And beyond. We need more than just political will, we need an act so bold, so responsive to the right to life, that it ends our collective misery. It must set women and young girls free from systematic onslaught.

We need local mobilisation on such a grand scale that one can only call it a national revolt against the shameless, needless, heartbreaking loss of life. We need to confront these monsters in all their forms, on the street, in the courts, in the legislature, in our communities and here, on social media platforms.

Now what? Very sadly, I will talk to you at the next round of commiserations and lamentations.

In shame, once again, no doubt. DM


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