They Don’t Care About Us
By Michel’le Donnelly
All I want to say is that
“They don’t really care about us”
These lyrics by Michael Jackson were the first I thought of when I saw the images of the two women assaulted by Deputy Higher Education Minister, Mduduzi Manana.
Despite admitting to the assault at a Johannesburg nightclub, and facing two charges of assault, with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, Manana remained in his job.
The mere fact that Manana committed the assault and then admitted it, is evidence of his confidence in our patriarchal society. According to reports, he would’ve faced an ANC disciplinary hearing – but what good would that have done? He was still able to go home from a well-respected job each day without consequence.
Critics came out and called on President Jacob Zuma to fire and publicly denounce Manana – but he waited until Manana took matters into his own hands and resigned.
In May, it was reported that Minister of the President, Jeff Radebe, was accused of making sexual advances to a junior employee. Radebe apologised and faced no further consequences.
It seems there is a pattern here.
It’s an unspoken truth, that for male political leaders, their prominent positions in society have led to many of them feeling entitled to take advantage of women they have access to.
And where does this leave the women in these cases? The women who are disrespected, who have their reputations ruined while they watch men in power continue on as usual? Well, the two women assaulted by Manana are being painted as provocateurs. See, Manana says he was only acting out, as he was “extremely provoked”. The women called him gay so he deemed it his job to teach them a lesson. Never mind the homophobic undertones involved in the case, it’s the fact that Manana blamed the attack on the victims that is worrying.
We live in a country with one of the highest rates of femicide in the world (It’s is 4 times that of the global average) and earlier this year the national head of the police’s Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual unit, Major General Tebello Mosikili warned that the numbers are on the rise. Acts of violence against women, in all forms, are among the most under-reported crimes in the world. And when these women actually do go and report their abuse, they’re often met with “What did you do?”
“WHAT DID YOU DO?” Are you for real?? There can never be a reason for a man to raise his hands at a woman. Most of the time they do it because they can. It’s because history proves they can get away with it. We live in a society that encourages men to keep their women in line. Where they believe they have a right to our bodies. And they know they’ll be protected.
What’s even sadder about the whole Manana case, is that this is Women’s Month. The government held a rally on August 9th where President Zuma said: “The South African Police Service have been directed to treat crimes against women and children as apex crimes, the priority crimes. We wish to emphasise that nobody is above the law when it comes to crime against women”.
Right now, this speech is laughable. Why the façade? Why try to honour us if you’re just going turn around and punch us in the face because we provoked you? If you truly believed the words you spoke Mr. President, why haven’t you done anything about it?