'Our fists enslave us as we reduce your life to ashes, punch by punch'

OPEN LETTER: Dear Girl-child ...

04 September 2019 - 10:44 By Ismail Mahomed
UKZN gender studies student Yamkela Dube participates in a protest against the scourge of woman and child abuse.
UKZN gender studies student Yamkela Dube participates in a protest against the scourge of woman and child abuse.
Image: Alaister Russel/TimesLIVE

"We bruise your beauty until your corpse is carried out in another bloodied body bag and then we disguise our shame."

The death of University of Cape Town (UCT) student Uyinene Mrwetyana, who was bludgeoned with a scale in the post office, is most heartbreaking and it is from the depths of my soul that I write this letter to every girl-child.

Dear Girl-child

You watch us holding up our clenched fists screaming for power but we have failed to protect you. We hurt, rape, murder you and then we cry at your funeral because you did not survive to be hurt, raped, murdered again and again.

We drag you from childhood to listen to us preach from the pulpit from where we speak with empty words that leave our lips with no conviction. We make covenants with gods who sit with frozen hearts. They cannot feel your pain. Their ears are deafened to your cries. They proclaim that you were created from our last rib. They have forgotten that we come through you and from you. These are not the gods who created us. They are the false gods that we have made in our image.


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As a child we dress you in pink frocks to weaken you. We give you bows and ribbons to prepare you for the ropes and chains with which we’ll tie you. Your twinkling eye looks out to the world with hope but we make those eyes flood with tears. We bruise your beauty until your corpse is carried out in another bloodied body bag and then we disguise our shame behind black mourning suits and dark spectacles to blind our guilt. We have betrayed you.

When the writing about our betrayal is on the walls we refuse to read it because we have become so accustomed to listening to obituaries. At the sad hymns that echo at your funeral we claim to celebrate your life but we have broken your limbs and put your life asunder. We hardly have to wait for your coffin to be lowered into the ground before the funeral bells tolls again for another sister.

We worship the winds that erode the writing from your tombstone because we want you to be forgotten and when your spirit haunts us we steal the sands from your grave to cover our tracks. We fail to carry any shame even when the guilt is so deeply engraved in our hearts. We pray to the Heavenly Father to bless you when rightfully it is upon us whom He should be invoking His curses.

At your birth we welcomed you into the world which we have made hostile and unsafe for you. Your tiny heartbeat resonated not how alive you were but it echoed the songs of fear that you heard in your mother’s womb. That is the beat to which we monsters have danced around her, invoking so much terror and fear. And even though her fear flows from her veins to yours, you still embrace us with trust, but we mock and humour your courage.

Ismail Mahomed is the CEO at Joburg's Market Theatre Foundation.
Ismail Mahomed is the CEO at Joburg's Market Theatre Foundation.
Image: Ismail Mahomed via Facebook

Our clenched fists do not liberate us. It enslaves us in a brutal world where punch by punch with our fists we reduce your life to ashes. Generations of you have come and gone from ashes to ashes. Daughters, sisters, nannies, nurses, mothers, aunts and grandmothers; and every one of you carries the scars from our clenched fists because we are so power drunk in an intoxicated madness of our own making.

Though we’ve been grown in the safe wombs of our mothers and fed by their breasts, brought up on the laps of our grandmothers and carried on the backs of our nannies, cared by our nurses and loved by our aunts, favoured by our sisters and loved by our daughters, we have chosen to be monsters. We’ve grown our own fangs. Sharpened our own claws. Strengthened our sinews. Emboldened our voices. Hardened our hearts because we are too arrogant to show remorse and cry and say we are sorry.

We are weaklings and so we are cowards because in that single word “humanity” its greatest flaw is the letters m-a-n.

Anger and outrage followed the discovery of the body of missing 19-year-old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana on September 02, 2019. She had been missing since August 24. A 42-year-old man who worked at the Clareinch Post office allegedly confessed to the rape and murder. Gender-based violence has been a national issue in South Africa for years, with 3 915 women and children being murdered in 2018.


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