/ 6 March 2023

Hosia Malekane’s novel breaks the silence on gender-based violence

The Imperatives of Revoking Our Silence by Hosia Malekane. Photo: Supplied

After reading The Imperatives of Revoking Our Silence it is clear that, as a country, we still have a long way to go to end gender-based violence (GBV). 

What took me by surprise is that the author, Hosia Malekane, is a man. For once, it’s not women complaining about this unfortunately common narrative in South Africa. 

Malekane, who is from eMalahleni in Mpumalanga, writes about how young women in South African are subjected to gender-based prejudice, violence, sexual assault and male duplicity.

“I have to voice my concern about the state of gender relations in our country. Misogyny has brought untold grief to our women,” he says.

Despite the subject matter — rape, murder, emotional and physical abuse — Makelane’s writing is engaging, relatable and easy to read. It is a gripping read that explores the vantage points of both the victims of GBV and the perpetrators. 

He sets the scene in a university where it is the norm for first-year students to be sexually assaulted during orientation week.

Later on in the book, we are introduced to a woman student who is in a turbulent relationship and is murdered. Malekane highlights how patriarchy is an altar to archaic prejudice and that women are the sacrificial lambs. 

One of the characters, Moja, becomes a fighter against the patriarchy during her rise to become president of the student representative council, which gives her the power to build a pillar of hope for young women. 

Recently, the Mail & Guardian ran an editorial reminding us about two women who were killed — Ntokoza Xaba and Uyinene Mrwetyana. It reminded me of Malekane’s book, because Uyinene was a student at the University of Cape Town who was raped and murdered at a post office when collecting her parcel.

The book might not be based on a true story but the events written about reflect real experiences women face on a daily basis.

The author said he launched his book at the Soweto Theatre in the hope that it would inspire not only men but the Soweto community at large to speak out and take action against the killing of women and children — and for those men who are also being abused to reach out for help.

“There is a great silence from our male counterparts about what is happening to women in general,” he said. “I’m calling on my brothers to come out, shout, be heard and be seen in protests because the protests are always conducted by women who are the victims.” 

Among the guests at the book launch were GBV survivors and other people who have been affected by the violence against women and children. 

Many said The Imperatives of Revoking Our Silence was a beacon of hope for the Soweto community to support the fight against GBV. 

Author Hosia Malekane. Photo: Supplied

Soweto resident Dumisani Mbombo said the book speaks to the youth but it also inspires parents to start educating youths, especially on the importance of young men respecting women.

“So many perpetrators have not been arrested for rape or for committing acts of GBV against women and children. As a community, we are tired of hearing from our officials what they will do and not see anything done. We need a change in our community and this book might be that stepping stone.” 

Women are raped and are too afraid to report it because the justice system constantly fails. Victims often experience shame if they speak out yet the perpetrator is unscathed. 

Society often blames the woman when she is raped — “her skirt was too short, she had too much to drink and could not get home on her own”. 

Malekane added that his book is in remembrance of the 2 930 women who were murdered in 2018 — 30 of whom were killed in just one month, August, of that year. 

The violence against women seems to be rising. A report by Police Minister Bheki Cele noted that 9 516 cases of rape were reported from April to June 2022. Of those cases reported — which is probably only a fraction of the actual figure — 3 780 took place in the homes of the rapists or the victims. 

Malekane deserves applause for being among the few men who break the silence about GBV. 

The Imperatives of Revoking Our Silence is available from Takealot for R275.