Dear Mr President,
Today, I woke up to a broken South Africa. Headline after headline roared a bitter truth, one that the patriot heart must reckon with. From the sprawling townships to suburbia… it is clear… We are at war!
Mr President, you may not realise it. You may even accuse me of being an alarmist. Your eyes, like those of your compatriots, are still fixed on the glorious rise of our fledgling democracy. Its shine has blinded you from the darkness that simmers beneath the surface. Do you remember, Sir, the days of the Struggle, when the collective goal was the emancipation of our people? Do you remember the blood that was shed in the name of freedom? Well, today, the blood of my sisters cries out from this hallowed ground. The women of this country have been betrayed.
It seems as if our fierce battle against apartheid was only to free the black man. Democracy gave women nothing more than well-written policies, redundant campaigns and token months. Our beautiful Constitution cannot shield us from clenched fists and the determined phallus. We are not rocks, Mr President. Though our spirits may be indomitable, our bodies bruise when struck.
We boast a 50% representation in Parliament, but have failed to call out men on their actions. If anything, government tweets that women should “not allow themselves to become victims” as if three-year-old Courtney Pieters asked to be raped and murdered. Women do not “allow themselves to be victims”; their human rights are violently stripped from them by men who have no fear of State or God.
Do you know their names, Mr President? The women who have been bludgeoned, raped and even burnt to death? I must admit, their names are too many for me to recall sometimes. But their faces, oh their faces linger in my mind. I see them when I put on my makeup. They smile at me through the mirror… Siam posing among the tall stalks of sugar cane, Karabo dancing in her flat, confident Uyinene with her black beret, Anene’s one solitary picture. These daughters did not get a hero’s funeral. There were no politicians to turn their caskets into soapboxes… and in the years to come, they will fade like the winter snow on the Drakensberg. I cannot help but wonder, will it be #metoo? Will it be my daughter next? What if it was yours?
It is time to be honest, Mr President. The emancipation of women is not a by-product of liberation. We cannot continue to speak of women empowerment in apologetic tones, as if we are afraid to offend fragile male egos and the systems that support them. We tell women what to wear, where to go and how to protect themselves. When will we tell MEN to STOP!
Mr President, policies alone cannot change an entrenched culture of patriarchy. From the courts to the classroom, the message “not in my name” must echo. The narrative must be clear. I read today a tweet by a South African man who apologised to all women on behalf of his brothers. Perhaps it starts there…
Will you apologise, Mr President, on behalf of the men in South Africa?
Will you say, “Yebo ngiyaxolisa ngoba imina ekufanele ngithathe izinyathelo kuqala” like we said Thuma Mina when you called us to action…?
A broken black woman. DM
Genevieve Lanka is a senior current affairs producer and presenter at the SABC.
Mooning is considered a form of free speech in the United States.