As appalling as rape is, politicians make it worse
According to official statistics, an average of 110 rape cases are reported to the authorities each day. In most cases, the perpetrator is known to the victim. Sexual violence is a serious issue in this country, and no-one can doubt that we are desperately in need of strategies to fight rape culture.
The first step is to believe the victim who says she has been raped. Laying a rape charge is not an easy decision, because it comes with some stigma.
Though there may well be instances of women laying false charges of rape, our starting point should be that a woman brave enough to lay a charge has to be believed. This is why we find it despicable that rape is being turned into a political football. There have been times in the past when rape cases have been hijacked by men who have no interest in justice, but only want to harm their opponents.
Take the Jacob Zuma rape trial - had his accuser gone straight to the police, things might have turned out differently. But she reported the matter to politicians, which played into Zuma's hands. To this day, his supporters cite that rape case when they try to make him out as a victim.
The trend of politicians crying "political conspiracy" to defend themselves against sex crime charges continues, and so does the habit of using rape allegations to deal with opponents. The latest venue for this circus is Luthuli House. It started with national spokesperson Pule Mabe being accused of sexually harassing his former personal assistant.
Mabe's people pointed fingers at President Cyril Ramaphosa's backers, whom they claimed want to control the party's communications unit. Mabe has been cleared by internal processes, but the victim has vowed to fight on.
Last week Zizi Kodwa, who was acting in Mabe's place, was accused by a young woman of drugging and raping her at an apartment in Sandton. We do not yet have the full story, but it does appear there has been political interference. It seems the victim sought advice from Kodwa's detractors, who directed her to Luthuli House instead of a police station.
These men had no interest is seeing justice served; they wanted to create a cloud over Kodwa's head. Minister Bathabile Dlamini is right - men must stop using women as their battleground.