In 1989, the editor of Private Eye magazine, Ian Hislop, reacted to losing a libel case brought by the wife of the notorious “Yorkshire Ripper” by saying: “If that’s justice, I’m a banana …”
Long after the merits of that case have been forgotten, that saying is still around – and still signifies a miscarriage of justice.
After what happened to former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana in court this week, there have been similar expressions of disgust. Many people believe Manana got away with the proverbial slap on the wrist after being convicted of three counts of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
The beatings of women outside a nightclub in Fourways reignited the debate about violence against women and how it is treated by our society. Manana was fined R100 000 (or 12 months’ jail) and ordered to pay an additional R26 000 in compensation to his three victims.
It was quickly pointed out that Manana still earns R86 000 a month as a back-bench ANC MP – he was neither expelled from the party, nor parliament after the incident – so the fine will mean little to him, materially.
And materially, the woman-beater does not appear to want for much, judging by his flaunting of his expensive fashion tastes during his court appearances.
The reality remains that a high-profile man has been allowed his freedom after brutally assaulting women and, in the process, an old stereotype – that women are less important than men and, therefore, less deserving of protection – has been perpetuated.
All of this at a time when violence against women, in all its horrible manifestations, appears to be increasing.
The Manana sentence may not quite be a tropical fruit, but it certainly was a missed opportunity to send a message to men that women are not punch bags.