Welcome to Women’s Month in South Africa. The month of August gives us an opportune moment to reflect on issues such as gender-based violence, a phenomenon that widely and disproportionately impacts women.
How far have we come? How does the issue of gender-based violence “sit” so to speak within public discourse? In what direction do we appear to be heading?
Unfortunately, as we look around us, and despite being overwhelmed by violence, we are reminded that many would rather that women who suffer sexual violence remain quiet; and that if they do speak, they are not to be believed.
A prime example is the public response in the wake of the recent arrest warrant issued for well-known rapper and TV host Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye. On 27 July 2023, after handing himself over to the authorities, Jub Jub appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court on multiple charges of rape, attempted murder and assault.
There are four complainants in the case, one of them being actress and entrepreneur Amanda du-Pont who alleges that Jub Jub raped her repeatedly over the course of their two-year relationship and also tried to murder her. The offences against the women took place between 2006-2010.
In December 2021 an aggrieved Amanda du-Pont took to social media to counter Jub Jub’s statement that he had “smashed” her, made during an interview on MacG’s popular show Podcast and Chill.
After opening up about the physical, sexual and psychological abuse that Jub Jub subjected her to, several women came forward alleging that he too raped them. A case filed by du-Point in 2022 and the subsequent police investigation culminated in the National Prosecuting Authority’s recent charges against the rapper.
There is support for Amanda du-Pont, but the detractors are very loud and they would prefer to drown out her voice and the voices of other women. The detractors attack women’s character and deny rape using several well-worn but effective tropes.
In an interview with Newzroom Afrika outside the courthouse on 27 July, Jub Jub’s lawyer Terrence Ntsako Baloyi leant easily on these tropes, exposing his ignorance of gender-based violence.
“These are fabricated charges based on some form of recruitment of one another,” said Baloyi, relying on the “conspiracy” and “women lie” trope. Continuing he explained: “basically it’s a ploy to say, this guy has come out of prison, he’s now successful, let’s bring him down.”
He did not stop there but elaborated utilising the “because you waited so long to report you must be lying” trope. “You’re talking about something that happened in 2006, where were they all the long? Why do you wait for now when you see the man is rising?” he opined.
Lastly, he confidently articulated the misogynist “women have too many rights” trope. “This is why I was saying perhaps our women are given too much power to exploit the criminal justice system and bring successful men down,” he asserted.
Across social media there is no shortage of messages singing the same tune. Women for Change, an NGO that raises awareness and expresses public support for women who have been raped, had to close its comments section on X (Twitter) following a deluge of negative comments in response to their Amanda du-Pont post.
“I’m standing with Jub Jub, too much misguided abuse of women’s rights,” said one Jub Jub supporter, following the “women have too many rights” lead. Another sceptic, disbelieving of Du-Pont due to her having stayed in the relationship announced: “Raped for two years, there’s no such… still staying in that relationship.”
Elsewhere on social media a person ascribing to the “women lie” and “you waited too long” mantras professed: “That’s why I hate these rape cases reported many years after the incident; it means all of us can be accused of rape any time. A bitter ex can just go and open a case, and boom, you are arrested.” The support for Jub Jub comes from men and women alike, including popular music artist Makhadzi.
Whether a charge of rape arises from an incident that took place 30 years ago or three weeks ago, and whether the accused is an ex-partner or a stranger, women have the right to report cases of sexual violence whenever they are ready. The law permits it.
In South Africa, there is no statute of limitations for sexual offences because it has been recognised that it may take many years — even decades — for victims to come forward as they face innumerable psychological, social and other barriers in coming to terms with the violence and mustering enough strength to report.
It is even harder to report violence in intimate partner relationships because of the power that a present or ex-partner may hold over the victim, and because society does not fully accept that sexual violence within a relationship should be counted as rape.
Amanda du-Pont is courageous to have spoken out and consequently filed charges. Undoubtedly she will face more public backlash as the case progresses, but her act of speaking out is one of power in a society in which women are grossly disempowered through unrelenting sexual violence.
The public opprobrium lays bare why most women will never speak; they cannot because they likely will not be believed or will be shamed by their family, friends, and the police.
It is no wonder that most survivors of sexual violence decide not to share their traumas and tuck away what has happened to them until the day they die. This is why we must commend Amanda du-Pont for speaking. Most women cannot and will not.
Happy Women’s Month. DM.