Revving her bike against women abuse

2009-09-25 13:41

TOO often motorcyclists are associated with ratty, reckless behaviour and causing mischief on public roads. ­Seipei Mashugane causes her fair share of mayhem on the roads too, but only because the Biker Queen, as she is known to her fans, is one of the most glamorous beings on two wheels.

When she puts her designer jeans-clad bottom on the leather seat of her custom-built black ­Yamaha 1700 roadster Silverado, the spotlight falls firmly on her.

Last month, the 31-year-old businesswoman and her four biker friends (Tebello Modiko, Africa Tau, Thabo Mathebula and Terry Sharman) got on their motorbikes and completed a nine-day ride throughout the country.

The aim was to see one province a day and raise a minimum of R1.9 million over two weeks for the 1 in 9 campaign organised by People Opposing Women and Child Abuse (Powa).

“I wanted to use my popularity for a good cause,” says Mashugane, who is a celebrity in the Jozi biker circles because of her glamorous appearance and bold attitude.

“I wanted people to know that I have also been through tough times. In life I believe every person should have a good cause.”

Mashugane, who is a member of The ­Sopranos, a biker club based in Soweto, says the ride was also to ­highlight the serious need for women to speak out against abuse. The mother of two is a survivor of spousal abuse which occurred during her marriage of seven years.

“Many have done the Cape to Cairo route but ­nobody had attempted the nine provinces in nine days,” she says as we make our way into ­Sharman’s workshop in Buccleuch, east of ­Johannesburg, where her bike is being ­fine-tuned following the trip.
“I want Terry to spoil her with new artwork,” says Mashugane of her other baby ­“lioness”.

Powa spokesperson Carrie Shelver says the ­organisation applauds Mashugane’s efforts and courage. The bikers managed to raise about R350 000 through an SMS line created for the campaign.

“Her ­epic ride was an act of defiance. We encourage other women bikers to join her next year and voice their emotions against women abuse and women ­issues.”

Born in Orlando West, Soweto, Mashugane counts tennis, boxing and cycling among her ­favourite activities. “After my divorce two years ago I decided to look for ways to keep me busy and biking was a logical choice since I was already a cyclist,” she says while sipping on black coffee and exuding a degree of self-confidence that could easily be mistaken for ­arrogance.

“Throughout the trip I met a number of people. Some were waiting for us at garages, others opened their homes to us. The trip was so amazing on so many levels. It was fantastic because I was doing the right cause on the right month,” says Mashugane, who is also a constructor of low-cost houses.

But the trip, which began on August 9 and ended to the 17th, was not all smooth sailing. On a stretch on the N1 coming from Cape Town and heading towards Bloemfontein, the Biker Queen had an aha! moment.

“I broke down. The temperature was above 29°C, the air was hot and dry and a mirage was ­everywhere. At that moment I shed tears. Tears of joy, tears for other women who are abused by their partners. I was overwhelmed by the challenge and the ­journey,” she recalls.

As we leave Buccleuch, Sharman offers to show us a glimpse of his workmanship. One, two, three, false starts and the whole garage is shaking to the thunderous roar of the high-powered engine. “To the casual observers the bike is singing ­‘potatoes, potatoes, potatoes’,” says Sharman with a chuckle.

Mashugane, happy with the roar of her lioness, hits on an idea. “Maybe next year I can do the trip in four days. So you can print that. Next year I will be back on my iron horse doing things for a good cause,” she says, laughing.

WOMEN SHOULD SPEAK OUT

A RECENT study by the Medical Research Council on sexual violence reveals that one out of every nine rape survivors report the attack to the police. Furthermore, statistics indicate that of the cases that do reach the courts, less than 5% of the rapists are convicted.

This highlights the serious need for reform of the institutional framework for responding to women who speak out. And one in nine women in South Africa is abused by her partner or spouse. Another study has found that women in abusive or controlling relationships were twice as likely to be infected with HIV than women in non-violent relationships. These statistics prompted Seipei “Biker Queen” Mashugane to ride across all nine provinces in nine days to encourage women to speak out.

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