Waiting for Mandela to come back and liberate women in South Africa

I am writing this from the Cape Colony of an allegedly free country. The year is 2017, the news making headlines is that of a high powered Hollywood executive who has been preying on women with impunity for decades. This mirrors the recent launch of a South African book detailing how our former president raped a woman who was the daughter of one of his struggle friends then got away with it because the judiciary system was complicit with him, the Women’s League of the ANC turned a blind eye to his misdemeanors and public opinion vilified her to the point where she had to leave the country.

While the rest of the nation gained freedom in 1994 South African women are still waiting to experience this deliverance that was promised. We live in a state that claims to value women and demonstrates it by having vapid advertising campaigns centered around the colour pink every August for Women’s Month. Much is made of the part women of colour played in the liberation struggle such as the Women’s March of 1956. Lately “Mbokodo” is used as a term of praise to reward those who perpetuate the narrative of the strong black woman and subtly encourage them to suffer in silence.

With the same stealth that they inserted a sunset clause into negotiations the powers that be decided that the ground breaking human rights entrenched into the Constitution need not apply to the women of the country. Men could practice religions of their choosing,  exercise the holy grail that is the right to human dignity, generous labour rights and enjoy freedom of movement . Which is such a wonderful concept I’m sure Mandela did not regret spending 27 years in jail for it.

The convenient solution for the past 24 years has been to separate gender rights from human rights. Which means every day women are being failed by the same system their mothers and grandmothers sacrificed so much for. Not that it is stated that crudely. Far from it. The actions of the men say it all.

A favourite contact sport of men who enjoy unfettered freedom of movement in this beautiful country is rape. They like to get together in groups as headmaster and teachers to gang rape their pupils and film the ordeal. Others prefer to work alone when raping and sodomising the 9 month old baby of their ex girlfriend. Some like to pair up to rape a woman then cut her throat and disembowel her before leaving her to die on the roadside. Then there are those who take it upon themselves to rape lesbians in the mistaken belief that it will somehow turn them heterosexual. They do this with impunity knowing the courts will side with them. While serving in the High Court our current Chief Justice was on record as saying the man who raped a 14 year old was mindful of her young age which is why he was careful not to injure her private parts while raping her hence there were no serious injuries or bleeding.

The current situation is women are empowered in our much lauded Constitution but are marginalized in reality and literally have their lives put in danger by toxic masculinity. Culturally most of our traditional beliefs are deeply rooted in patriarchy so from birth men are socialised to view themselves as superior to women. Add to that the commonly held belief that “good men” should be forgiven for problematic behaviour towards women because they are doing the work of the revolution. Sprinkle some casual misogyny. Then you have the perfect cesspool of a system that makes women victims then colludes to punish them if they are bold enough to speak up for their rights.

Conclusion: being a feminist in South Africa means you can talk the talk about intersectionality and social integration all day but cannot walk to the corner cafe at night because there is a very real chance you will not return home alive. Because your country does not think your human rights matter as much as those of menfolk.


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