POWA protest demonstration against abuse. Photo: Oupa Nkosi/ M&G
In an environment of systemic abuse, femicide and rampant inequality, there has never been much reason to celebrate Women’s Month. But rarely have we had so timeous a reminder of how this society is failing women.
On Thursday the department of basic education vowed to take “the strongest action possible” against a male pupil who was caught on video “violently assaulting” a female pupil at a KwaZulu-Natal school.
The video, which was posted on Twitter by Tumi Sole of #CountryDuty fame, shows the female pupil being kicked and hit by a male pupil in a school uniform.
But it is another video that shocked the country this week that proves how little recourse there is for survivors of assault.
It appeared to show the deputy minister of higher education, Mduduzi Manana, beating a woman at a club in Johannesburg — and the slumberous law enforcement response proves that the fish rots from the head.
Manana, who still claims he was provoked, is an extreme example of how men in positions of leadership fail women. He is not alone, however. There was President Jacob Zuma and the woman we still know best as Khwezi. There were also Jeff Radebe’s sexually explicit texts to a government employee.
None, including Manana, have suffered professional consequences.
What recourse can there be for a young pupil in KwaZulu-Natal when our leaders get away with similar behaviour? But then, Radebe could argue, why should he be held accountable when the president has unprotected sex with the daughter of a friend, putting the health of his other partners at risk?
And let’s not forget the president allowing his supporters to hound his rape accuser out of the country.
For all of the ANC Women’s League’s supposed influence, for all the lip service given in Parliament to women’s rights, for all the talk at rallies, the reality is: the men who lead us are complicit in the abuse of women in South Africa. #MenAreTrash.