The vilest of crimes

When South Africa embarks on the campaign named Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence later this month there will be much hand-wringing and pious declarations from across the political and social spectrum.

We should expect women abuse activists to mount podiums to deliver angry speeches decrying the scourge of rape and other forms of gender violence, and calling on the government to ”do something”. We can expect lofty speeches from government officials proclaiming just how much effort they are putting into fighting rape, and calling on civil society to ”do something” about the moral fibre of communities. And we can expect defeatist shrugs from the police and prosecutorial authorities effectively blaming each other for the low rate of convictions and calling on women to ”do something” to help them fight this crime.

When the 16 days are over, the abuse of women and children will drop to its designated place at the bottom of our national priorities. Many reasons are proffered by experts and South Africa’s leaders as to why we are not winning the war against rape. Among them are poor investigative techniques in the police force, ineptitude among prosecutors and the breakdown in society’s moral fibre.

The latter explanation argues that the era of conflict from which we have just emerged so damaged South Africa’s psyche that we find it difficult to distinguish between right and wrong. So we have man-beasts roaming our streets and homes, raping and beating women at will.

All the reasons have credence, but the primary problem is our attitude towards rape: we simply do not believe it is a real crime because it does not damage the economy, hurt people’s pockets or result in us joining funeral processions.

It is just one of those things that happens.

This attitude of indifference was best exemplified in its crudest form by the boyish guffawing of Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Penuell Maduna and the late safety and security minister, Steve Tshwete, a few years ago when they scoffed at a statistic that a woman is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa. They may or may not have been correct in questioning the statistic, but their behaviour spoke volumes about South Africa’s blithe attitude towards this vilest of crimes.

This attitude is also exemplified by the humiliation to which rape victims are subjected by police officers and the contempt with which communities treat them once their ordeal is known.

We cannot continue relegating rape to the peripheries of our national debate and pretending that we are not in crisis. It may not be as intellectually challenging a subject as the shape of the economy, as politically immediate as the political disintegration of Zimbabwe or as headline-grabbing as the Middle East crisis.

Yet it is a subject we should be talking about every day, and urgently putting in place policies and mechanism to reverse.

That will only happen when South Africans — both male and female — openly admit that a significant portion of our male population is waging a war against the country’s women.

It may be a war that takes place under the cover of darkness, in bedrooms and offices, comfortably and conveniently far from our eyes.

But is the most brutal of wars, nonetheless. We at the Mail & Guardian will join the counter-offensive by continually and consistently making South Africans wince about what is an ongoing national scandal. We will do so by shaming our leaders, institutions and communities, and ourselves as individuals.

Low Marx for Engels in Zulu

Who would want to be the first Zulu translator of a document that was at least 150 years wrong in predicting the imminent collapse of bourgeois capital?

Well, the South African Communist Party is keen to assert its prior right. It is hotly disputing Brian Ramadiro’s claim to have outstripped all others in laying before the Zulu nation Karl Marx’s breathtakingly inaccurate reading of world history, The Communist Manifesto.

The comrades insist a Zulu version was penned by central committee member Eric Mtshali for underground use in the 1970s, and is now enshrined in the Mayibuye Centre at the University of the Western Cape. Alas, it seems to have disappeared too far underground, as no one has been able to trace a copy of the mythical text.

Whoever got there first, they have made a vital step in communism’s historically foredestined conquest of the African continent, according to that tireless defender of the faith, Neville Alexander. Zulu workers, presumably like their European, American and Russian counterparts, will now be well placed to throw off their chains.

Has no one told Alexander, and his ever-shrinking band of co-religionists, that communism is the stage in human history that stands between capitalism and capitalism?

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Michael Vlismas
Guest Author

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