War talk

2016-07-12 06:05

AS a citizen of South Africa, I cannot help but follow the current news to keep myself abreast of any developments in my country, whether good or bad.

The focus that has been afforded by the news to the issue of virginity bursaries or maiden bursaries from uThukela Municipality, has been one of those that one hopes will move from the spotlight soon, especially with the intervention of the Commission for Gender Equality.

I firstly need to say that, as a Zulu woman, I respect our cultures and traditions, and believe that people have a right to exercise them if they so desire.
I also wish to state that girls who willingly undertake virginity testing as part of their culture should be allowed to do so. That being so, as a Zulu woman I abhor any treatment or action that forces any person to do what he or she would not normally do, because of his or her financial situation.

I would, however, like to comment on the press conference that was held by the mayor of Uthukela District, Dudu Mazibuko, in the company of a young woman said to be a Zulu princess. I was shocked to hear the utterances of the princess in support of the bursaries, especially when she threatened a repeat of the Sandlwana war if “fingers are pointed” at the Zulu tradition.

That made my heart sink in disgust, more so because she had a smirk on her face when she said it. What have we become as a nation and as proud amaZulu? Is she even aware what is happening in our beautiful country?

Here is a young woman threatening a country grounded in constitutional democracy, with war if a requirement that is perceived to be unconstitutional is questioned. Is violence now the answer to issues in the public space?

Is her intellectual capacity and that of those she supports or represents so restricted that violence is the answer to such a simple issue, which has got nothing to do with our traditions, but everything to do with municipal systems and the constitutionality thereof?

An ill-conceptualised policy decision is at the centre of this controversy, not our traditions.

Lest we forget, we no longer have homelands governance systems but are citizens of South Africa, and thus subscribe to the Constitution, irrespective of our opinions on it. That includes the mayor and her council, the members of which, one hopes, were sworn in. In this case in point, where the institution is a government one using ratepayers’ money, one hopes that it will uphold and protect the Constitution. The mayor and the municipality cannot choose to be part of the Constitution when it suits them, and then use the traditions card when they feel like it. They are a government institution and are part of a unitary state, and should protect every constitutional value at all times. In cases where they err and are called to order by a duly recognised institution, they should take the advice. Should they not be content with the advice given, they should follow the necessary procedures to appeal or to register their dissatisfaction, and not call upon the support of a child who talks of war in a country that is already burning; that is careless.

Blind stubbornness will not help anyone, but engaging with issues in a manner that will take the country forwards and add value to our understanding of contemporary issues and how to deal with them, will create an atmosphere where there is a balance between traditions and systems of government.

As a country, we are fighting the phenomena of teenage pregnancy, HIV/Aids and various other social ills. These problems cannot be addressed by dangling a bursary in the faces of teenagers who are growing up in a sick society; they go far deeper than that.
Every resource should be directed to teaching our children to value themselves and to instil in them a sense of self-worth and that they need to restrain themselves and to abstain from not only premarital sex, but things that will prevent them from attaining their dreams and building a better South Africa.

I do not know what interventions and resources the municipality is using to deal with the scourge holistically, and on assisting the youth who feel that they have no option but to have sex to get a plate of food or to escape their circumstances. A firm foundation should be laid. If the councillors of uThukela Municipality, its mayor and her supporters, including the princess, want to provide bursaries based on virginity, I suggest they create a bursary to which they contribute from their personal funds, but in a case where public funds are used, let the municipality seek constitutionally viable criteria for the allocation of these bursaries, thus providing much-needed assistance.

• Ntokozo Makoba is a doctoral candidate and lecturer at UKZN Westville.

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