Act against violence without fear, irrespective of who the perpetrator is
The past few weeks have inflicted so much pain on our country, reversing the small gains we have made in the fight against the abuse of women, children and the most vulnerable among us. It will take a long time to claw back the lost ground. What has also not helped is the fact that the recent cases of abuse against women have been perpetrated by prominent figures in our society. Former deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana, who announced his resignation yesterday, is among these high-profile figures.
Manana stepped down after a meeting with President Jacob Zuma on Friday.
The details of the meeting with Zuma are still sketchy, but we have been told that Manana refused to resign voluntarily and had to be pushed. His resignation came almost two weeks after he admitted assaulting two women at a nightclub in Sandton, Johannesburg. He is out on R5,000 bail.
There could be more misery for Manana as the ANC is under pressure to remove him from its list of public representatives in parliament. We wait to hear how the party will respond to these calls.
In the same week in which Manana grabbed headlines, Shaka Sisulu was also facing charges of assaulting the mother of his child. Sisulu denies assaulting Lerato Sedi, claiming they were only having a "disagreement on a maintenance issue".Their cases came weeks after musician Arthur Mafokate was facing charges of assault. Mafokate allegedly assaulted his musician girlfriend, Busisiwe Twala, also known as Cici. It is alleged that he dragged Cici into the street during an argument. The assault was so brutal that Cici spent time in hospital recovering from injuries sustained during the alleged altercation.
Former footballer and TV personality Marks Maponyane was, around the same time, also found guilty of assaulting his former wife. He was fined R3,000 or six months' imprisonment, and a further R6,000 or 24 months' imprisonment that was wholly suspended for 24 months.
While all of these incidents have dealt a serious blow to efforts to rid this country of savagery against women and children, it must be the assault on 20-year-old Gabriella Engels that has all of us ordinary South Africans worried.
This is the second such case, in as many weeks, in which we witnessed how the politically connected are being allowed to trample on the rights of women.
Engels has accused Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe of assaulting her and her two friends. The assault happened at a Sandton hotel at about 9pm on Sunday. Sadly, Engels has been left to take on one of the most powerful women in the region all by herself. There has been no support from her own government.The ANC Women's League, which chose to support Manana last week instead of his victim, has not said a word. Zuma acts as if nothing has happened. As usual, our Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu is missing in action.
While details of what really happened in that hotel room remain a mystery, it should worry all of us that, almost a week after the assault, Mugabe is yet to be brought to book. There are reports that the Department of International Relations and Co-operation is considering granting Mugabe diplomatic immunity, which would allow her to leave the country without any action being taken against her.
South Africa is violent - we are at war with ourselves, our women and our children.
Between March and December last year, 1,713 women were murdered in this country, which roughly translates into one murder every four hours. In a dire situation like this we are required to act swiftly on cases like these, especially when they involve the powerful and mighty. Swift action sends a strong message that violence against women will not be tolerated - regardless of who the perpetrator is.