April 28 to May 04 2006

How to tire Zuma

The Art of Seduction, by JZ:

If she is wearing a dress; she is asking for it.

If she crosses her legs; she is asking for it.

If she visits your house; she is asking for it.

When a woman says ”no”; she is asking for it.

Never visit the beach or a fashion show; it will make you very tired. — Michael Brett, Hartebeeshoek

Given the prevalence of sexual abuse in South Africa, we should ask if South Africans have any working definition of consensual sex. And if women and men know what consensual sex is, does this knowledge become real-life practice?

There is a steady stream of reported incidents of women being coerced into sex in the family, in school, at work and in their communities. Many flow from power relations, and most are poverty-related.

An Eastern Cape school teacher was reported to have raped more than 20 girls over a few years. A journalist discovered that a significant number of the parents and caretakers knew the teacher was raping their daughters.

The families defended their silence. The teacher was providing gifts of food to the families, sometimes as little as two loaves of bread a week.

Other reports tell of rape victims as young as 12 and of their families and communities who paid the rapist’s bail after he offered to support the girl.

These examples should inform our understanding of the Jacob Zuma trial. The complainant’s sexual past is one of unequal sexual relations, mirroring the sort of relationships found across our nation

Perhaps her experience of sex is so warped that she cannot distinguish between consensual sex, coercive sex and rape. If so, her testimony serves to indict Zuma, indeed most South African men — not just as perpetrators but as idle observers of such violence. — Juliana Thornton, Johannesburg

Jacob Zuma’s defence rests largely on his assertion that the sex with the complainant was consensual. Most of us probably let this go by unremarked. We all know what ”consensual sex” means, don’t we? Or do we?

There is a vast difference between a mutual desire for intercourse as a natural part of a loving relationship, and a one-sided transaction where the man’s wish for sex is signalled in a way that the woman finds difficult to refuse — whether from fear or more complex social, economic or cultural reasons.

The latter might be construed as ”consensual” if the woman opts not to resist or doesn’t actively say ”No”. Yet in its psychological outcome it is a far cry from true consensuality.

The trial offer a lens into a core impoverishment in our communities — indeed, it is not South Africa’s problem alone — that of intimate relationships.

The boom in therapy for the world’s middle classes shows how hard it can be to create a durable, happy love life. What of the millions whose foundational experience of intimacy within their own family was less than satisfactory and who don’t make it into therapy? — Peter Willis

I see no harm in Zuma’s having taken a shower. Next time, however, he should do it BEFORE the event, and make it a COLD one. — Jonathan Ossher, Uitenhage

M&G allergic to Gospel truth

If anyone doubted the Mail & Guardian‘s allergy to the truth of the Gospel and its determination to put it in a bad light, these must have been removed by your Good Friday special issue. A true smorgasbord of beliefs, confusion and spiritual bewilderment it was.

With much space dedicated to criticising, discrediting, misrepresenting and bashing Christianity and promoting fringe Christianity (Colin Bower’s insert on Spong), one would have expected the M&G to at least have the decency to include the more fundamentalist and evangelical Protestant voice.

It baffles me that there was space for an absolute adulterer of the Christian faith like Spong, and for confused souls like Mary Ovenstone, who honestly believes you can be a sangoma and follower of Christ.

It amazes me that messed-up feminist Stephanie Vermeulen is given space to misquote the Bible and to lament the fact that ”the Creator received his dangly bits” only during the past 6 000 years, while female deities ruled the roost for the previous 200 000 years. Sounds like a case of sour grapes to me.

Then there’s that old ANC stalwart Cedric Mayson who tries to reconcile the irreconcilable with his syncretism/inter-faith hullabaloo.

Not one contribution represented fundamentalist evangelical Christians, who are spiritually not confused and hold the Bible as true and God-breathed. — Robert de Neef, Howick

Nokuzola Mndende’s critique of the sexual politics inherent in Xhosa rituals merely masquerades as a theological article (”A genderless faith”, April 13). It contains no mention of a God or even the Xhosa term for it.

He is correct, though, in saying local acts of ”faith” have transcended gender. Some would consider Nongqawuse’s exhortation to kill all cattle and destroy all crops to satisfy ”spirits of the ancestors” in 1856 less a divine act than one of genocidal stupidity. — Roy Coleman, Cape Town

As an Anglican, I should like to respond to Bruce Hewitson’s challenge (Letters, April 21) in respect of Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane’s (pictured left) remarks concerning the Resurrection (April 13). I am proud of the archbishop. He is about as orthodox an Anglican as it is possible to get.

Presenting concepts like the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection as physical truths creates obstacles to faith for any reasonably intelligent person in the 21st century. But if they are treated as akin to metaphor, poetry, or imagery in art and music, one can begin a spiritual journey.

The Anglican interpretation of Christianity is something like this: by living in the poetry, it gradually becomes real in ways impossible to describe. As another Anglican bishop famously said: ”Act it through and gradually it becomes true.” — Nigel Willis, Johannesburg

Your Easter edition articles were provocative and challenging. I hope your paper will do a similar analysis on Islam and other religions a week before their major spiritual periods.

But what does this concept of ”modern man” really mean? How many children turn to crime and immoral activities because free-thinking dads have abdicated their leadership role in the family? ”Modern man” cheats on his wife and justifies it by his freethinking morals. Does he think that honesty, integrity, loyalty, fidelity and respect need to be replaced by greed, lust, corruption, drug abuse and the like?

As Muslims fiercely defend their faith, so have I decided, as a Christian, to refuse to swallow this ”do it-free, melting pot” kind of philosophy. — Henri Tshiamala, Cape Town

I was initially gripped by Stephanie Vermeulen’s article, but my intrigue soon turned into concern. As a born-again Christian woman I strongly feel women have a great role to play in spiritual matters. I disagree with the tyrannical patriarchal approach that men, not God, have perpetuated.

Jesus died for both men and women. We should invent a new ”Godriarchy”, where men and women treat each other in a way that recognises that God resides in the other. — Zama Jaribuh Mbatha, De Deur

Whites should be thankful

I would like to thank Archbishop Desmond Tutu for capturing the reality of our country so beautifully in his recent address at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The degree of amnesia that pervades so many white South African minds should surely earn us a record of sorts.

To have lived off the fat of the land for decades, in a country as beautiful and as rich in resources as ours, to the exclusion of 90% of the population, is an incredible feat. And yet the end of institutionalised white supremacy has brought increasing property values, overseas holidays and a booming economy with still mainly white beneficiaries. Yet whites still complain.

One would have thought that in a climate so favourable to whites they would have the integrity and courage to acknowledge their complicity in the system and the wealth it gifted them. However, it is a sad truth that most whites are deeply arrogant about any sort of acknowledgement, as evidenced by the failure of the Home for All campaign a few years ago and the recent response by the Democratic Alliance to Tutu’s statement.

The fact that whites pay taxes or ”work hard” as the DA’s Douglas Gibson would have us believe does not remove the moral responsibility of acknowledging their lack of self-criticism as apartheid beneficiaries at the expense of the humiliation, poverty and oppression of black South Africans. Therein lies the key: white privilege was, and is, at the expense of black deprivation.

White South Africans continue to live a privileged life unperturbed by the fragile moral basis of their accumulated wealth and privilege. They have not had to make any real changes to their lifestyles.

How many whites have had to swop Camps Bay for Khayelitsha? Or Sandton for Alex? And despite that, black South Africans have, miraculously, not sought any form of revenge. I’d say that was something to be thankful for. — Salaudin Majnoon, Johannesburg

Go on ‒ blame the poor motorist

Your article ”Easy riders” (April 21) is, at least in its headline, misleading. The headline assumes that it is the motorist who must be at fault in road deaths — either by driving recklessly, at excessive speed, or under the influence of alcohol. Yet it is the statistics concerning pedestrians that are alarming.

As a motorist I am constantly frustrated by the lack of meaningful data on the situation on our roads. Specifically I would like to know the breakdown of road accidents and fatalities between urban and national roads, the breakdown between pedestrian and motorist fatalities, and the reasons for the accidents — alcohol, speeding, jaywalking and so on.

Whether these statistics confirm or contradict my preconceptions, it is impossible to formulate an effective response without them.

You suggest motorists are not facing up to the full consequences of their actions in respect of road fatalities, but one must ask what actions are being taken to keep pedestrians off the national roads. Are they being charged, and if they are, with what offence?

It is their actions that endanger cars, taxis and buses full of passengers. They should be charged with reckless endangerment.

But perhaps the real easy riders are the traffic authorities who blithely blame the road carnage on everything but their failure to firmly manage the roads, while hiding in the bushes with cameras. — M Sparks, Durban

Mind-boggling

The Arbitration Court promises to be very busy after deciding Eskom was right to promote a black engineer instead of a coloured engineer better qualified for the job.

This was apparently because the black candidate was more ”previously disadvantaged” under apartheid than the coloured man.

One’s mind boggles thinking of the disputes between opposing claims by categories of ”previously disadvantaged”. How will a disabled white woman measure up to the claim of an able-bodied black woman? Or an Indian woman versus a disabled coloured man? Or an able-bodied coloured woman against a disabled white man?

When will merit weigh in? — Helen Suzman, Johannesburg

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