The wheels of justice grind at an ever-sedate pace.
Writing this week, this is how Vukani Mde sums up the ongoing murder case of Viwe Dalingozi. Her boyfriend, Mpho Thobane, is on trial, accused of setting her alight.
In testimony in November, her neighbour said: “I saw Viwe running. She was on fire, and she was screaming “nditshisiwe nguMpho” (Mpho has set me alight). I saw a huge flame coming from her flat and I followed her as she was running towards the stairs but could not catch up.
“Her hair was falling off and she had blood on her chest, she was trying to take off her T-shirt, it was burnt, and she was trying to remove it from her body but couldn’t.”
It is hard typing these words, even over the distance of two years since Dalingozi was murdered. Such is the systematic and extremely personal violence that we report on all too often.
The case should be straightforward. There should be justice in a South Africa desperate for justice in the plethora of cases where men have murdered their partners.
But the state — our state — has bungled the case. The official report on the cause of the fire reads: Undetermined.
We marked Women’s Day this week. It’s another occasion where political leaders promise to live up to the example of the 20 000 women who marched against pass laws in 1956. They refused a system that formalised the dehumanisation of black South Africans.
As we attack women, and deny them justice, it is hard to argue that we aren’t still dehumanising 51% of the population of this country.
After the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised new legislation and special courts. But, just as justice for women on all levels of the state moves slowly, it took Parliament months to pass the Bills that would allow for these promises to be recognised. It was only last month that the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill were finally passed. These Acts are to protect victims of gender-based violence and femicide but took close to a year to finalise.
This is just another testament of how little regard there is for gender-based violence. It looks good on paper to talk about it but on the ground the situation is very different. The system did not work for women back in 1956 and still today it doesn’t.
This is especially true for women who have been harassed, abused, murdered every day in our country.
Viwe Dalingozi’s story, like many others, is painful to read and write about. But in court it simply drags on like any other case.
As we have written so many times, this cannot be the status quo.