Femicide: A South African nightmare?

The global coronavirus outbreak has forced South Africans to revisit some of the most important social ills we have been facing as a country. These are inclusive of, but not limited to, the senseless killings of black people which resulted in the global #BlackLivesMatter protest. We have also witnessed a spate of violence and murder that is directed at female bodies in South Africa. These brutal killings and violent behavior towards women can be traced throughout South Africa’s violent history. But what stands out is the fact that South Africa is amongst the few countries that top the global statistics with regards to femicide.

Many a time, when we discuss the scourge of femicide in South Africa there are other discourses that seem to arise from this social ill. What surfaces is the question of whether we are dealing with femicide, gender based-violence, intimate partner violence or openly just homicide. Whatever arguments that may arise from this discourse, do not entirely attempt to find interventions to the social ill that is femicide. It remains just as a public discourse that seeks to erase the fact that females are the target of the violence, and more often, sadly, this violence is administered by males. So for as long as the argument continues, stats continue to project that a woman is killed every four hours in South Africa.

The term femicide is used in regard to “ the murder of women or girls for gender-based reasons”. When a woman is killed, she is most likely to be murdered by an intimate power.  Seedat, van Niekerk, Jewkes, Sufta, and Ratele in Violence and Injuries in South Africa: Prioritizing an Agenda for Prevention, observed that a distinct feature of violence in South Africa is its gendered nature, with males disproportionately affected both as perpetrators as well as victims of violence.

South Africa has one of the world’s highest homicide rates with 20 000 people murdered every year and stats prove that the government is struggling to curb crime. 57% of gender-based murders are done by intimate partners thus making South Africa’s femicide rate five times more than the global rate. Accordingly, one can assume, based on the femicide statistics that women, in South Africa, are endangered as a demographic. Gender-based violence cannot be attributed to a single factor however, but an interplay of individual, community, economic, cultural and religious factors interacting at different levels of society.

With all the statistics drawn together and pointing in one direction, it is perhaps safe to conclude that we are facing a nightmare. If we are still caught wanting, perhaps it would be worth our time to look at the recent emergence and rise of cases relating to the killing of women during a global pandemic. Though we might not, at this stage, be able to access all the statistics that relate to the killing of females since the inception of the lockdown, there is still evidence to suggest that indeed we are dealing with a pandemic within a pandemic. Of course, there are many causal factors of and that relates to the femicide. Amongst many, lies the fact that the lockdown caused quite a few layoffs, forcing many to be locked in with their abusers on a 24hour basis. This subjects them to continuous abuse and maltreatment until such time that they are either found dead or industries open up and ease the burden of having to negotiate through violence on a daily basis.

But of course these recent spats are not stand alone events. There is a consistent timeline that these events can be traced through. What has been consistent also is the fact that year in year out, civil society mobilizes itself to speak out against the killing of women, as we have seen in the Total Shut Down in 2019 and the National call for demonstration against GBV in all major cities of the country a month or two ago. In previous years we have seen some of the most cruel incidents that broke South Africans’ hearts. Such include the brutal murder and violation of the body of Uyinene Mretywana, Karabo Mokoena and that of Jesse Hess. There has also been a disturbing trend, of late, where pregnant women are killed in horrific manners and in some cases, women are killed along with their children.

These cases are pure proof of the fact that women are not safe in South Africa and that the country is on a continuous downward spiral. The lack of justice in such cases also leaves much to be desired and sends a message that crime is not punishable in South Africa, let alone the murder of women. South Africans are indeed living in nightmarish conditions and femicide is indeed South Africa’s nightmare, the sooner we respond to it the better. Otherwise we will find ourselves entrapped in the web of this social ill that is femicide for years to come.

Black Lives Matter In Africa Too

The recent brutal murder of George Floyd, an African American in the United States of America by a police officer sparked a debate about racism against black people around the world. This gruesome act of police brutality blew the cap off racial tensions that existed as well as institutionalised racial profiling by law enforcement officials in the United States.

In order to understand the context of the development and relevance of the black lives matter movement in Africa, we need to explore certain key events in the continents history. These will enable us to unpack and understand why a continent which is so rich in minerals and natural resources finds itself within the clenches of abject poverty. The starting point for this crucial debate would be an evaluation of the role played by imperialism from the 1870’s to the 1900’s, the channelling of African wealth to its former colonizers and how ongoing conflict further worsens the condition and standard of life for Africans. 

Imperialism is defined as a policy of extending a country’s influence and power through colonisation, use of military force and other means. In 1884 a conference held in Berlin, set the wheels in motion for the legitimisation of the partition and scramble for Africa by European countries. Imperialism had worked its way into every aspect of life in Africa. African people’s social norms, political organisation and cultural way of life were all disrupted.

Africa was categorically classed as being backwards and home to a barbaric inferior race. This is the racial outlook through which the narrative of white supremacy and black inferiority became the foundation for institutional racism. This racial distinction and class hierarchy indoctrinated the black man into accepting a status of being second class citizen with no form of freedom or civil rights. No other people on earth had been systematically trained to hate themselves like black man. African culture has been white washed to the point of almost no existence. European colonies built schools that would teach western culture and religion.

Cornell West in race matters refers to Nihilism as “the lived experiences of coping with a life of horrifying meaningless, hopelessness and lovelessness”. This resonates with much of what is happening and what has happened previously to black people in Africa. The black nation was subjected to the most brutal and inhumane treatment in the form of slavery and the slave trade which became the norm in many countries that were colonised in Africa. The history of colonisation and the looting of African resources for industrial production in Europe, was built on the blood and sweat of black people. The extraction of rubber in the Congo saw many black people lose their lives and others who did not meet their daily targets for rubber either killed or their hands chopped off. Rubber was a highly valued commodity at the time and the Congo was wealthy in this respect. In the Congo the mass killings and blatant act of cruelty lead to the population decreasing to half its size. This asserts the stance of the unequal distribution of power between those who own the means of production and those who offer up their labour for a wage.

Currently there are 15 African countries that are involved in war, or experiencing post war conflict and tension.  At the helm of these wars are the rich natural resources that these poor countries hold, for example oil, timber, diamonds and gold and the presence of foreign extraction companies and their corrupt dealings with the governments of these countries. The wars in Africa, are to a greater extent blamed on tribal conflicts, but the real truth of the matter is that this is simply a tactic to divert attention from the fact that these wars are created and sustained for the main purpose of robbing people of their country’s natural resources.

The conflicts going on in Africa have led to many human rights violations.  Armed groups in Somalia, Mali, Nigeria and elsewhere launched indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including killings and mass abductions which in turn leads to displacements in large numbers. Those who are tasked with protecting civilians (state security forces) from harm often respond to such violations by unleashing the same kinds of human rights violation and torture and enforced disappearances.

The leadership of many African countries rule\govern by proxy, in that their sole mandate is to ensure that the interests of the elite are looked after at the expense of the mass majority who live in abject poverty. The current infrastructure is crumbling as tenders are awarded to those who are close to politicians. The public health care systems are in shambles. Service delivery protests have become the only way in which people can have their concerns addressed.

In recent years we are seeing an increase in a few black people moving up the corporate ladder and piercing through the glass ceiling which acts as a barrier to the upward mobility of black people. However this doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been smashed entirely. Most of the debates around black lives matter become diluted with some people arguing that all lives matter. The reason for the relevance in black lives matter is due to the fact that perpetrators for crimes against black people only get away with a slap on the wrist. The argument that all lives matter seeks to divert attention from the fact that black people are still very much marginalised and poverty stricken. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an illustration of the former, where we saw leaders coming together to advocate for reconciliation instead of retribution for the crimes committed against black people under the system of apartheid. We also saw how King Leopold’s bloodshed in Africa went unpunished

Recently racism has taken a more covert approach in that it is more subtle than public. Makhaya Ntini also blew the lid on the racism he experienced as a black cricket player in South Africa and rallied behind the black lives matter movement.

If we are to truly deal with race matters we need to be aware of all factors that contribute to the perpetuation of racial supremacy and domination. Africa needs to be left alone to deal with African problems the African way, without interference from external powers. Affirmative action cannot continue to be enforced in countries where the majority of the population is made up of black people. Africa should work towards developing industries that extract and convert raw materials into final products. The late Thomas Sankara stressed the idea that Africa can be self reliant and that dependence on foreign aid instils the beggar mentality.

Complied by 

Tshepang Pitsi

Young Leaders Visit the JHB Holocaust and Genocide Center

A delegation of young campus leaders embarked on a tour of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide center. The delegation was made up of a number of representatives from university campuses churches, school councils and members of the clubs and societies from Gauteng. The total number of the delegation was 18 young people.

Comments by the students

“With regards to the holocaust what stood out the most for me was how Nazi ideology was based on a systematic hierarchy, which perpetrated dominance of one race over another. It was interesting to see how the use of propaganda was infiltrated into every sphere of German societies.

The manner in which the process of socialisation into the ultimate Nazi ideological loyalist was carefully structured which led to many Germans pledging alliance to Adolf’s vision of a supreme and purely German race.

We see a demonstration of power politics, which is conflicting in its nature. We see how war was waged on the Jews and other minority groups were sustained by conquering other countries in ultimately meant that the Nazi would be able to exploit the resources in such countries to sustain the wars.

We see the role of media in setting the agenda on issues in the case of Rwandan genocide in that the time the war broke out the world had its eyes fixated on the birth of South African democracy.

Both instances of the genocide we how fear is being used to create hysteria among the public. Fear drives the political animal to act a certain way, it plays on the self interested or collective interests of a group of people to advance dominion over another or be subject to being the inferior weakling and succumb to being dominated by another. A survival of the fittest kind of scenario.” By Tshepang Pitsi – Honours Bachelor of Arts,  politics and international relations major.

“The museum explores genocide and human rights, as well as the Holocaust and 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Featuring 34 panels of content created exclusively.

The exhibition commemorates 10 years since the devastating May 2008 outbreak of xenophobic violence that swept through South Africa, leaving over 60 dead. “Killing the Other” documents the continued flare ups of xenophobic violence from 2008 up until the present day. The photographs form a visual documentation of the terrible, senseless brutality of xenophobia, and serve as both a reminder to never forget and a call to action to stop this from happening again.” By Tshiamo Modise – 3rd year Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science.

We would like to thank Gertie and Ronny who gave the delegation an educative guide of the Holocaust and Genocide center for free. Furthermore, we would like to thank the generous sponsor who helped in putting up the programme together.

Israel is indeed going back to Africa

In East Africa, Israel has positive presence! Israel was there with the team of Israeli firefighters in Ethiopia continues its mission there for the 2nd day, working to combat the Simien Mountain National Park fires, Israel sent 9 firefighting experts to Ethiopia to assist the local forces in putting down the raging fires in the unique World Heritage site. Israel was there and inaugurated an Intensive Care Unit at the hospital of Dodoma in Tanzania and last November upgraded an ICU in Kisumu in Kenya through MASHAV by doing great things in the health sector in East Africa. Israel is always there, and Israel Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs inaugurated the new Embassy of Israel in Rwanda, Israel’s 11th embassy in sub-saharan Africa. This is Israel’s 11th embassy in Africa; it symbolizes the policy of Israel’s return to Africa, as was announced by PM Netanyahu 3 years ago and in light of which he visited the continent four times and established diplomatic relations with Chad and Guinea Conakry. To West of Africa, Israel is there!! Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara hosted Cape Verde Prime Minister Jose Ulisses Correia e Silva and his wife Elsa Correia e Silva for dinner. PM of Cape Verde was on an official visit to Israel, PM expressed Cape Verde’s utter support of Israel in its fight against terror. Israel’s Deputy Director General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with Prime minister of Cape Verde discussions was on MASHAV Cooperation Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met in Jerusalem with the President of Liberia George Manneh Weah, the fruitful & wide-ranging discussions during the visit reflect the close relations presently enjoyed by both countries. Following President Weah visit #Israel & #Liberia agreed to enhance their cooperation. Within this framework MASHAV will provide capacity building programs in agriculture, health, women empowerment and emergency preparedness both in Israel and in Liberia. The Embassy of Israel in Cameroon through CBM Cameroon, some young Cameroonian disabled children are using wheelchairs designed by Wheel Chairs of Hope. Wheelchairs of Hope is an Israeli NGO that works for the improvement of access for children with mobility disabilities mainly in Africa. Central Africal, Israel is there!!! Israel’s PM Netanyahu and Chad President Idriss Deby announced the resumption of diplomatic relations between Chad and Israel. The two sides will presently sign an official memorandum on the resumption of relations between the two countries. The announcement was made in the framework of PM Netanyahu’s historic visit to Chad. The two sides view the resumption of relations as the key to future cooperation for the benefit of both countries. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Gabon Vice President Dr. Pierre-Claver Maganga Moussavou, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. The two discussed strengthening bilateral relations in agriculture, water management and energy, among other areas. The meeting was part of the deepening of Israel’s relations with African countries. President Rivlin did meet with President of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadéra at his residence. President Rivlin welcomed President Touadéra and said, “We have enjoyed ongoing connections out of a desire to expand the cooperation between our states, in humanitarian, economic, and cultural fields. We are very pleased to welcome you on your visit, which is certainly a further step in the developing relations between us.” President Touadéra added, “This is the first time a leader of the CAR has visited Israel, though we were one of the first states to recognize Israel. Our country has endured difficult times, and the people have proven that they want to get out of this situation, and so we have come to Israel in order to learn – your country is a school for us. Israel has advanced abilities in development and this is a good example for us to be brave, and to have the will to succeed.
We believe that cooperation can help both sides and we are committed to furthering this.”
Israel is there in the Southern Africa!!! Israel is always there, Israel through Israel Aid did send Emergency Response team to Mozambique bringing #WASH supplies, community & mental health support specialists and more. Updates to follow in the coming days #CycloneIdai. Israel extends assistance to the victims of the #MozambiqueFloods2019. Israel is always there for remarkable visits, President Rivlin meets with Bishop Lekganyana of South Africa. The Bishop’s delegation explained to the President their tradition of gathering millions of the Church’s followers together three times a year, and of the importance the community held in praying for peace for all mankind. President Rivlin “We can hear any kind of criticism, but the idea to boycott Israel, against the very idea that the people of Israel have a right to live in our homeland. This is something that we cannot accept”. Israel is always there, there was theFirst-ever Knesset delegation to South Africa. A delegation of Members of Knesset returned this week from a weeklong official visit to South Africa where they met with leading South African political figures and members of the Jewish community. Northern Africa, Israel has its footprint. 40 years ago 1979, Israel & Egypt signed the historic peace treaty which opened an era of cooperation between our countries. President Rivlin sends letter of condolence following the terror attacks in Egypt to President el-Sisi of Egypt. The Egyptian nation knows how to withstand such despicable acts of terrorism and to continue its firm stand against such vicious terrorism. “Israel is coming back to Africa”

Venezuelan Civil Society leaders

Africans for peace together with Konrad Andenauer Stiftung hosted two Civil Society leaders from Venezuela at Wits University. The two leaders spoke about their involvement in Venezuela on how they bring about change and development in their communities. Their discussion also touched a bit on communism and land expropriation.

Building Peaceful Inclusive Societies

The sources of hostilities during the past 20th century among societies were mainly based on ideological rivalry. However, the underlying sources of hostility has in the 21st century shifted from ideologically-based causes to resource-based causes of violent conflict. Resource-based causes of hostilities create tensions between those who access to resources and those who do not have access to resources. The need to build inclusive peaceful societies requires that these resource-based causes be resolved. In most cases, causes of hostilities based on resources occur in states which are undergoing reorganization after a lull of state rapture caused by dispensations of exclusions.
The history of state formation and reorganization, in general, demonstrate that state-building and reconstruction can sometimes be a violent process especially in cases where the political dispensations which preceded the process of reorganization had been characterised by exclusionary political settlements.
The process of reorganization can also lead to the emergence of radical social movements within society which seek to challenge not only the history of the existence of exclusionary political discourse but also the nature of political settlements. This can subsequently lead to conflicts based on emerging interests as the platform for a more sustainable future-oriented inclusive settlement is sought. The state and non-state actors in this case must be able to accommodate and deliver on such emerging legitimate demands from radicalized sections of society for inclusive sustainable post settlement dispensation. However, where the state is weak to deliver on such interests to meet the urgent needs of certain sections of society with such emerging legitimate demands, resource based conflict may transpire. This can happen, particularly, in situations where there is evidence of illicit gains of resources by political elites and cronies at the expense of the general public. Such illicit accumulation of resources gained from political patronage grounded in political influence peddling can lead to a destabilized society and can undermine any political settlements that might have been reached during the process of state reorganization and political settlement resulting in long term conflict within society. In addition, the illicit accumulation of resources which seeks to empower political elites at the expense of the general public can either create sections of society which face inequities in resource distribution or sections of society whose basic rights of accessing resources are destroyed leading to a rapture of violent conflict. Sections of society faced with political, social and economic exclusion and where victims of such exclusions do not have access to equitable justice can mobilize for violence within society especially if attendant grievances are exacerbated by abuses of human rights, corruption and failure to deliver services by the state. Exacerbated abuses of human rights can provide a platform where sections of society to take advantage of these grievances and build them into radicalized militant narratives leading to greater conflicts and instability in society. Building inclusive peaceful societies involves a shared sense of identity and destiny grounded in both diversity and a sense of patriotism all of which help in resolving the problem of ethnic, racial and cultural based differences which in turn essentially facilitates the processes of overcoming detachments and strengthens social cohesion among diverse ethnic, racial and cultural sections of society. Peaceful inclusive societies espouse diversity which incorporates respect for the rights of all people including their sacrosanct right to have a voice, access to publicly provided resource, choice and control over their own lives. While the word “societies” may imply diversity, inclination to class and pursuant of exclusive values, there is, nonetheless, the need to comply with generally accepted rules and regulations which constrain human behaviour within societies…the constitution of the state. The advancement of tolerance within these legal constraints grounded in diverse value systems and the rejection of the imposition of certain values over society within the context of diversity is essential in building peaceful inclusive societies. The promotion of peaceful inclusive societies is, also, essential in promoting and sustaining the principles of functioning democracies which among other things include peaceful co-existence and equality in the application of the rule of law. Can dialogue and resource-redistributive justice build peaceful inclusive societies? Dialogue seeks to propagate conversation between warring parties having presumed varying views. In propagating this conversation, the intention is often to find substantively agreeable solutions to the underlying causes of such remarkable differences in views. Violent confrontation seeks to unleash collective punitive measures against constructive cooperation and engagement as opposed to dialogue. In addition to the promotion of dialogue as an antidote to violent conflict, resource-redistributive justice through the creation of employment possibilities to improve equity in access to livelihoods diminishes the incentives by victims of inequalities and deprivation to engage in violent conflicts. The creation of employment possibilities must involve a cocktail of inclusive civil society actors which can also play a detective role of identifying and addressing sources of possible causes of violent conflict. Inclusive non state actors can be can be used in not only resolving violent conflicts to insulate the process of building inclusive peaceful societies from exclusionary and discriminatory undertones but also serves as an incentive to the promotion of the principles of transparency and accountability all of which are essential in strengthening the practice of democratic governance.