‘Sixteen Days of Activism for no violence against women and children’



Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation

My dear friends and fellow South Africans,

My first weekly online letter coincides with the start of the 2006 ‘Sixteen Days of Activism for no violence against women and children’.

One of the most difficult, heart-breaking and inexplicable facts of life is being the victim of abuse or violence at the hands of someone you love. This is the lot of many, perhaps too many, women in South African society today. The truth that we live in a violent society is no excuse.

Violence, in many ways, is our unhappy heritage, a persistent relic of the past days of colonialism and apartheid. But as an endemic social evil, violence has long transcended our complicated past.

Unlike in the old days, when the violence perpetrated by the state against certain classes of citizens did discriminate, the mostly criminal violence of today does not. It affects people from all walks of life every day. It does not matter what race, culture or background you come from, how old you are, how much money you have or if you have a disability or are vulnerable in some way.

What serves as an infinite encouragement to perpetrators is that many of us do not view violence against women – whether physical, mental or emotional – as a straightforward crime. Whether your abuser is a family member, someone you love, a current or past partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, an acquaintance, a neighbour, or a total stranger, the violence against you is a straightforward crime.

Where do your political representatives fit into this?

Since the advent of democracy in 1994, our parliament has passed an impressive battery of new and good laws to protect women and children.

The problem is that though these laws are good, legislation is simply not enough.

As the doughty campaigner Charlene Smith has remarked, laws don’t walk with women in the streets, or guard women in their homes, where 65% of South African women will get raped, and one in six will get murdered.

So we must ask the question – a difficult one for us politicians – why does South Africa have the world’s highest rate of rape and the most violence?

Why have sexual assault figures climbed steadily since democracy? Well, maybe in part, this may be due to more women exercising their rights and reporting domestic violence.

But on the whole, it seems to me that domestic violence legislation introduced in 1998 seems to be doing little to dent high rates of violence against women.

I pledge myself and my party to work with other political parties and organisations to combat violence against women and children. But there is one thing that I really want to say today to the women and children who are the victims of domestic violence.

You should know that you are not at fault. You must remember that you did not cause the abusive behaviour to occur. You are the victim. One important part of getting help is knowing if you are in an abusive relationship and then admitting it to yourself. Sometimes this can be hard. It may involve very strong ties, emotional as well as material.

But you know, for you own sake, that it must be done.

If you or someone you know has been physically, sexually or emotionally abused or violated, do not hesitate and seek help from others, trustworthy family members, friends or community organisations. Talk to people. Talk to a health care counsellor if you have been physically hurt. Consult a dedicated helpline on how to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of sexual abuse before you find yourself in actual danger.

If you have trouble getting help, your local IFP branch offices or our parliamentary offices in Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town will point you in the right direction. You are not alone. We care.

Yours sincerely,