Shining a light on gender discrimination

In early 2010, Juluis Malema was found guilty of hate speech and harassment for comments he made against Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser, whom he said had had a “nice time” because she had stayed for breakfast and asked for taxi money. 

In the run up to the ruling, an unrepentant Malema had made disparaging remarks against Sonke Gender Justice (the NGO that took him to court) calling them a “Mickey Mouse organisation” and referring to Mbuyiselo Botha, the man spearheading the case, as a “puppet of white masters”.

In the end Malema had to eat his words, being forced to publicly apologise and pay R50 000 to a centre for abused women. William Nessen’s film Can’t Just Fold Your Arms uses this case to give it momentum and excitement. 

It’s a clever decision by Nessen, as the work Sonke Gender Justice does is unglamorous, involving a lot of preplanning and boardroom discussions which make it into this film. 

As Thami Nkosi, a trainer with the organisation says, the organisation’s work is aimed not so much at changing men but at helping them acknowledge their capabilities. 

Throughout the film, you see snippets of this motto in action, as well as glimpses of the personalities of the people who make it work and the dedication they put in. You also get a sense of context, in the sense that you get to learn that many people doing this work are operating in a country they laid down their lives to liberate. 

As such, their degrees of disillusion with the ruling party vary but inform the selflessness of their work, hence the title of the film.

At times though, the film feels unfocussed, as if it is trying to cram too much information into its 52 minutes. It moves from campaign to campaign with dizzying speed, sometimes feeling like an extended trailer, an elongated show reel or a filmic CV.

At any rate you walk away with newfound respect for the “mickey mouse organisation”.

Can’t Just Fold Your Arms is part of the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival. It screens on Monday June 18 and Friday June 22. For more information visit

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

G is for glamour, not garage shop

Pantry by Marble is disrupting the forecourt shop status quo by offering restaurant-quality services on site

If the state won’t deal with civil war criminals, then...

Liberia decided not to prosecute anyone for crimes committed during its first and second civil wars. Now, one organisation is documenting and aiding prosecution outside the country

Home Suite Hotel: A hidden gem in Sea Point

Founded by the man behind LIFT Airlines, Gidon Novick, Home Suite Hotel knows a thing or two about curating a fresh experience on an old concept.

Latest design and foodie trends at Durban Home Garden Show

The event celebrates 40 years of the city’s design scene. The 2022 edition brings together fashion folk, beer culture, architecture and greenery, while giving visitors their cultural fix

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…