Faith Daniels

All the president's rude men

2016-08-10 12:20

Faith Daniels

I haven't reported on a President Jacob Zuma event in a while. So it was a bit of a shock to be at the IEC's national results centre in Tshwane last week and to see Number One enter the building. I must admit, I realised all too soon why I don't miss covering the president at all. Not because I don't think he's a newsworthy subject. On the contrary. But because I detest his bodyguards.

Once the president enters a building, these muscle men run the show. And you'd better not get in the way. Journalists are all too used to this. But last week I saw how ordinary people get the shock of their lives in the face of such bullying.

I'm not talking about the orchestrated pictures you see in the papers when the president shakes the hands of people at a specific venue. Before and after those pictures, there are a lot of commands issued to those who want to get close to him, wanting to take selfies, or just a pic of Number One. It's enough to scare the living daylights out of you. Because these are not requests.

One can appreciate that the security of the country's first citizen is not to be taken lightly, but my goodness, it cannot be this awful either. How about restraining people in a less mean way, dude? How about heeding Madiba's advice to his minders? "Smile when you push people."

I mean, I really don't like being touched by strangers, and here you are taking me by the hand and pushing me out of the way, nogal. And the same goes for the poor woman standing next to me, who just wanted to show her daughter a pic of Zuma. After receiving the fright of her life, she simply lowered her phone and decided against taking a pic.

I was still licking my wounds and recounting my own altercation with this bunch while I had been taking pics of the president earlier, when I saw the video clips of four young women silently protesting, go viral.

There they were at the closing ceremony of the local government elections. One moment they stood, posters in hand, remembering the woman who had claimed years earlier that the president had raped her (a court ruled that Zuma and the woman had had consensual sex). The next moment, pandemonium.

And then those rude, familiar faces moved in, grabbing at the posters, pushing and shoving these young women – who moments ago had stood silently in front of the stage, harming no one. They didn't even gesture in Zuma's direction. All they did was silently make their point.

I watched the way these men treated the young women and my blood boiled. They showed absolutely no respect and no understanding of how to defuse a situation properly. Just crudeness and using your power over another. That's all they know. That's what they do.

What a picture to send across the country, across the world. In a nation where abuse against women, women's rights and women's issues are frequently highlighted as core concerns – this is how these men behave. This is what they deem acceptable in the month that we celebrate sisterhood, womenhood and being phenomenally female.

We shouldn't condone such thuggery. Not ever. And they need to be aware of our collective outrage. So keep on condemning it, as you've been doing on social media. Keep on reminding the president's men that they, too, have a responsibility towards the women of this country. They, too, need to stop the abuse.

- Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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