Row over pants sparks violence

2012-03-08 09:12

A 17-year-old schoolgirl who dared to wear pants is at the centre of violent clashes between IFP and NFP supporters in Durban’s Umlazi township.

The clash left two people dead last weekend.

Violence erupted after an IFP-aligned leader at Umlazi’s Unit 17 hostel was arrested for allegedly beating the teenager, who is a supporter of the breakaway NFP party.

Nkosiyazi Gwala allegedly attacked the girl with a knobkerrie on February 11.

After he had appeared in court on assault charges, Gwala’s supporters marched through Umlazi’s T Section late last Friday. Houses were looted and torched, and two people died. Seventeen men were arrested on charges of arson, theft and public violence.

The 17-year-old Grade 11 student told City Press she sleeps away from home at
night and returns towards mid-morning when the hostel residents are away at work.

The girl said she was attacked after she had removed a kanga she was wearing over her pants while walking through the hostel on February 12.

She was on her way to join fellow NFP supporters to board transport provided to attend a party anniversary rally at a local stadium.

The girl said she left her friends and took a detour to buy popcorn from a nearby shop. It was while walking to the shop that she was confronted by a man who hit her and poked her with a knobkerrie. She fled and alerted the police.

“I am scared all the time. I have to pass where the attack happened to get a taxi to go to school. They know what route I take and where I live.

“I’m very afraid,’’ the slight teenager, whose dream is to work in a bank, told City Press this week.

“I don’t think what happened to me is fair. We are not married to the men from the hostel. They have no right to tell us what we can wear, where we can walk. That is wrong. They can have the rules they want in their own houses, but not outside,’’ she said.

“I’m afraid, yes, but I’m not going to withdraw the charges. I didn’t do anything wrong.’’

The girl’s mother said a “ban” on women wearing trousers had been in place at T Section for as long as she had lived there, which was since 1998.

The “ban” was imposed by Unit 17 leaders after an IFP boss was killed in the early 1990s by a man dressed as a woman.

Five years ago the hostel and the ban made headlines when Zandile Mpanza (25) was stripped to her underwear and beaten in the hostel for wearing trousers.

Two brothers, Thulani and Sibusiso Cele, were eventually convicted for indecently assaulting Mpanza and placed under house arrest.

Mpanza also won an equality court case against the hostel leadership, in terms of which the illegal “banning” of trousers was prohibited.

Phumlani Khuzwayo, the IFP’s eThekwini district secretary, said the party
did not support the ban on pants and would expel anyone enforcing it.

“People cannot force this on others. These are not the actions of IFP members.

These are thugs,’’ he said.

The area was quiet this week, but residents told City Press they were worried there would be more violence when Gwala appeared in court again on March 7 and when the 17 men arrested last week headed back to the dock on April 2.

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