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  • on 31.03.2010
  • at 02:00 PM
  • by Staff

SA: men against gender-based violence 0

CAPE TOWN – When Mbuyiselo Botha decided to take the African National Congress League President, Julius Malema, to court for hate speech against women, he was confident from the start that the case had merit. But he also knew it was a toughest test yet in his 15 years of gender activism.

“My colleagues from back during the anti-apartheid activism days warned that I had taken a career damaging move; I was seen as challenging the black leadership,” said Botha.

Despite the discouragement and the potential of making enemies at the top, he went on with court challenge and won.

On March 15 the controversial Malema was found guilty of hate speech for he insinuating that President Jacob Zuma’s 2005 rape accuser had enjoyed the act. Addressing students in Cape Town last year, Malema was widely quoted saying: “When a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money.”

The ruling ANC youth leader was ordered to pay 50,000 rand ($6,700) or publicly apologise for his remarks within a month of the ruling.

“Unfortunately, Malema’s comments reflect a general mentality that men in South Africa and Africa as a whole have. They think they have a right of domination over women, which is wrong,” said Botha, the father of three.

Dispelling myths of male superiority

Having been involved in anti-apartheid protests in the 1980s, Botha knows very well the dynamics of activism. He partook in a series of protests, he was shot and injured in the process and left with a permanent disability. The apartheid struggle, he says, made him realise that “all forms of oppression are unacceptable.”

“After the end of apartheid in 1994, I thought we cannot claim to have total freedom when women are still subjected to suffering through unnecessary cultural practices and perceptions.”

Botha referred, for example, to forced marriage practices known in Nguni languages as ukhutwala and is still widespread in other parts of Africa. “This is not different from rape. South Africa in particular, it is shocking, we have the highest incidents of rape,” he said.

A 2009 study by South Africa’s Medical Research Council revealed that one in every four men interviewed admitted to having raped a woman; the highest rate in the world. The research further found that few cases are reported. The chilling findings are what Botha, through organisations he works with such as Sonke Gender Justice Network and Men’s Forum, seeks to reverse.

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By Davison Makanga IPS

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi