It is hard to believe that South African men are as appalled by abuse as they say they are.
Despite the fact that, like racists, almost every man you speak to considers himself “one of the good ones,” the reported stats on gender-based violence and sexual assault remain alarming. These stats are reason enough to believe that someone is lying when all these claims about not being abusive are being made.
It is not like women are abusing each other and men know this.
We have seen various examples of their harbouring this information in recent times; first, with the online naming and shaming of rapists on social media late last year and again during the state of the nation address (Sona) and the follow-up debate.
Men see or hear of other men being abusive and do nothing about it. They qualify their doing nothing by making statements such as “it is not my place” and “what if she goes back to him after I do something about it?”
These statements are quickly forgotten in instances of conflict as we saw during Sona when Boy “Mr Perfect Wedding” Mamabolo alleged that Julius Malema abuses his wife Mantwa. A woman who is rumoured to have been romantically involved with Mamabolo when she was younger.
We saw it again during the Sona debate when Malema – who took exception to Mamabolo’s accusations – alleged that president Cyril Ramaphosa also used to physically abuse his previous, now-deceased wife.
Prior to these men’s conflict with one another, nothing was publicly said or done about this abuse they knew was happening.
Lord only knows why they kept quiet about it but it must be said that men’s weaponisation of this information during conflict is utterly disgusting.
It further goes to show how a great majority of men do not really care about this problem until it becomes something they can use against another man. And even when they eventually confess what they know, they do not use the information as a means to help victims and survivors find justice.
They simply show that while they think abuse and sexual assault are wrong and are things one should be ashamed of doing, they are not problems that they need to play a part in solving.
To a great majority of men the world over, a fellow man’s abusive past is a tool to shame him. A tool used to temporarily tarnish his image while they try to get one up on him in whatever arena they are competing in.
I sincerely hope that when keeping the ideals of each party in mind, be it during election time or otherwise, South Africans remember this moment as one of the true barometers for how politicians really feel about issues beyond the dressed-up language used in their founding documents and manifestos.
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