Dashiki Dialogues: Brothers, we need atonement

2012-04-13 09:51

Crisscrossing the streets of our land, from townships to inner cities, will expose you to our hectic failures to relate socially.

Some of these failures are quietly known though seldom debated publicly.

Like the fact that many women harbour latent fears of the male gender.

I’m talking about those mothers, sisters and aunts who can’t go anywhere for fear of some amorphous man lurking around the corner.

Take, for instance, an incident I witnessed recently. I’d just jumped off the Gautrain to catch a taxi ride from Rosebank to the Jozi inner city.

It was a slick minibus with a moderately loud music system, pumping Phuzekhemisi and Khethani’s legendary number, Imbizo: “Ungaboni s’phila k’lomhlaba siyakhokhela. Awu njalo njena ku khon’imbizo.”

(Don’t see us living in this land, we are paying! Oh and there’s always these meetings.”)

These are the thick sounds of the great golden metropolis, Zulu migrant labourers chanting to guitar riffs and hand claps.

Get with the programme.

Now the cruise continued as the masculine charge of the music complemented the incidental male bias of the passengers on board. The minibus was two-thirds full as we approached Riviera Road along Oxford Street.

Only the back seat remained unoccupied.

A lovely lady eyed us as we approached the corner. She confidently shot up a finger to indicate her intention to catch the ride to town.

Naturally, the driver stopped for her. Now here’s where I come across one of the social fault lines I’m talking about.

Eye candy sweet as she lifted her stiletto to step inside, with tight grey denims hugging her gifts in full view of the conference in the car. She thrusts her head to discover the men-only party of passengers.

She caught her breath and apologised, then stepped back outside. As she slid the door shut, the driver cracked with restrained anger. He asked her what game she was playing.

Her answer was most unnerving: “Iyoh! Banna fela?!” Loosely meaning: “What! It’s only men in here.”

This means the poor woman didn’t feel safe in a taxi where she’d be the only female among us. As a man, that worried me. It says we’ve been acting in ways that justify this woman’s response.

Our own womanfolk have reason to fear us. That can’t be normal.

So I think we need an atonement of sorts. We can call it a transformative dialogue of brothers – something like the holy transubstantiation of base liquor into Christ’s healing blood – to colour our dashikis: turning predators into protectors.

» Follow me on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu
 

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