Past time to stop rape in South Africa

From the March-April 2013 issue of News & Letters:

Past time to stop rape in South Africa

South Africans, outraged over another horrible rape and murder, that of Anene Booysen, participated in One Billion Rising on February 14. Photo by Zubair Sayed, http://africasacountry.com/2013/02/15/63159/

South Africans, outraged over another horrible rape and murder, that of Anene Booysen, participated in One Billion Rising on February 14. Photo by Zubair Sayed, http://africasacountry.com/2013/02/15/63159/

Grahamstown, South Africa—Thandiswa Qubuda was gang-raped in the early hours of Jan. 20 at the corner of New Town and E Street in Grahamstown. She was 30 years old and the only one surviving in her family. Both her parents had died and she was living with her aunt.

She was savagely beaten during the rape, suffered permanent brain damage and eventually died from the beating. The Revered Mzi Dyantyi, family members and the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) held a prayer and anointment in her hospital ward.

The men that were arrested were granted free bail. The rape case was then dismissed and struck off the role because of the extreme negligence and incompetence of the police. The only charge that is remaining is murder.

Witnesses have been subject to serious intimidation by one of the accused. One has been taken to a place of safety after being threatened with death by one of the accused. Another has had to flee to Johannesburg. And yet the accused were given free bail!

We do not believe that the state is taking the rape and murder of Thandiswa Qubuda seriously. The state holds poor people in contempt. We are just voting fodder to them. We are not human beings to them.

Our President, Jacob Zuma, cannot give leadership in the struggle against rape, attacks on Lesbians and other forms of gender-based violence. After his rape trial he emerged bruised and lacking in credibility to many South Africans. His utterance in court when he stated that he knew that a woman wanted sex because of what she was wearing was disgraceful. The way that his accuser was vilified was disgraceful.

If the President were to deal with the scourge of rape seriously and to lead the fight against abuse of women with honesty and sincerity, his dignity would be restored to many South Africans. But we have no faith that this will happen. When we look at his silence in the face of the repression of the movements and struggles of the poor, we have no confidence that we will ever have leadership from above.

Therefore it is clear that the leadership in the struggle against rape will have to come from below. It is time for real action against rape. As the UPM we are committed to doing whatever is in our power to work with others to end this scourge.

Enough! Genoeg! Kwanele!

—Linda Booi, cousin to Thandiswa Qubuda; Xola Mali, UPM spokeperson; Sbongile Jonas, UPM Secretary for Women

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