IFP Women’s Brigade: Indigenous knowledge will provide solutions to South Africa’s societal ills

It has been exactly 12 months since the IFP Women’s Brigade – under my leadership – signed a pledge to protect women and children against gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa. We did this under the tutelage of IFP President Emeritus, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and IFP President, Honourable Velenkosini Hlabisa, whom, together with IFP Youth Brigade, also pledged to protect women and children.

Today we resume the 16 Days of Activism Against the Abuse of Women and Children awareness campaigns under abnormal circumstances, facing the dire economic consequences created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, it is women and children who always bear the brunt of the adverse circumstances affecting society.

This year we observe this campaign under a dark, heavy cloud. Our country has experienced an exponential rise in GBV cases, where women and children are killed and thrown into ditches, just like animal carcasses. And lately, according to reports, the victims have been missing bodily organs. Human trafficking is on the rise, serial killers are roaming our streets; it’s a bloodbath.

South Africa – we cannot go on like this! We have to do something! We have to start somewhere!

We need to find ways of combatting these ongoing atrocities. If femicide continues unabated, our children will spit on our graves for failing to be torch-bearers. As the IsiZulu idiom says, “okuhlula amadoda kuyabikwa”. It is time to look back and tap into our Indigenous Knowledge Systems to find lasting solutions to GBV and other societal ills.

I cannot wait in suspense in the country of my birth, every time my granddaughter is 10 minutes late getting home from school. Even I don’t feel safe, as every day I wake up to the news of either a body of a woman burnt beyond recognition, or a woman killed by a lover, or a grandmother killed by her grandson.

I call upon our communities to instil a culture of independence in our young woman, empowering them so that they do not stay in abusive relationships simply because they cannot take care of themselves.

As an IFP member in good standing, I believe and abide by the Ubuntu/Botho principle, which serves to instil the importance of social cohesion.

In my culture, the men who abuse women are frowned upon and referred to as “indojeyana”. Normally perpetrators would refrain from their wrongdoings. This was done to discourage the ill-treatment of women and children. In the same breath, we cannot hide from the reality that South Africa is a wounded nation, such that even those in power, who are stealing from the poor, are showing symptoms of these wounds. Hence they turn to thinking of enriching themselves, being gravely selfish and shunning the poorest of the poor. In an African context, you do not feast alone while your neighbour goes to bed without a decent meal! One of the golden practices of my culture was “ukusiselana”, where a wealthy man would will lend two cattle to his poor neighbour so that he could get his livestock farming underway. Such acts of ubuntu must be encouraged and restored.

Nowadays we talk of wanting to claim our land back, yet we have no skills to  farm the land. In my birthplace in Mahlabathini, I grew up with the good practice of “iLimo”, where neighbours assist each other to till the land. Such sacred practices need to be preserved, and enhanced with modern expertise. This does not only encourage self-reliance and self-sufficiency but promotes unity in communities. We need to teach our people how to catch a fish, as opposed to fishing for them

It is for this reason that the IFP calls for education system to be modified into a system geared towards liberation, as opposed to an education system designed for oppression. 26 years into our democratic dispensation, we still have a system in place that encourages our young people to go looking for employment, instead of preparing them for farming and other important sectors of economy.

The IFP Women’s Brigade calls upon the government to fund izimbizo initiatives, which, I’m optimistic, could bring about a therapeutic solution for our society.

It has dawned on many that we need izimbizos, where men and women from all cultural backgrounds will robustly engage and discuss a way forward, to find solutions for today’s – and future – challenges.

Others may disagree with me and maybe view these as solutions from the Dark Ages, but Indigenous Knowledge has been proven to work hand-in-hand with 21st century ideas in finding solutions in many parts of the world. We are convinced that the Indigenous Knowledge approach will gradually yield positive results. However, we are opposed to those elements in society who twist our culture and, for example, slaughter goats at their victim’s house to appease the ancestors and ‘cleanse away’ the ‘bad omen’ of rape, or those that pay lobola to cover up their crime. They may perform their rituals, but this in no way frees them from the penalties for their crime – perpetrators of criminal acts must face the full force of the law.

The Women’s Brigade still maintains that NO bail should be given to perpetrators of GBV – regardless of whether it is a first offense or not. We have regretfully noted the increase in the numbers of repeat or habitual offenders of GBV. We plead with our Justice System to be tough on these offenders, and that the Department of Correctional Services exercise caution and vigilance when granting parole.

Contact:
IFP Women Brigade National Chairperson
Hon. Phumzile Buthelezi
073 216 0918