Adriaan Basson

Adriaan Basson: Let the women lead us into a better future

2019-09-16 08:22
Protesters marched to the JSE in Sandton. (Canny Maphanga, News24)

Protesters marched to the JSE in Sandton. (Canny Maphanga, News24)

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The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa. The tremors of the protests that have rocked the country's cities to a standstill will be felt long into the future, writes Adriaan Basson.

Reminiscent of the 1956 Women's March led by Helen Joseph, Bertha Gxowa, Lilian Ngoyi and thousands of other women against oppressive apartheid laws, and the 2017 Women's March in the United States against the toxic masculinity of President Donald Trump, the 2019 Women's Marches showed how the women of South Africa will not be silenced by the war on their bodies waged by men.

South Africa has felt like a very dark place over the past two weeks and one had to be unconscious not to have been affected by the barrage of stories about rape, murder and abuse streaming from the mouths of our friends, colleagues, sisters and mothers.

PICS | #ShutDownSandton: Thousands gathering at JSE in protest against gender-based violence

But from the darkness emerged such a powerful force of light and hope. The message was loud and clear: Until here and no further. No longer will the names of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre "Baby Lee" Jegels and Jesse Hess be banished to the dustbin of police press statements.

They have names and faces and stories. They had dreams and futures that were brutally taken away by the violent actions of men.

Ready to lead

The women of South Africa have had enough, and they are ready to lead.

Watching the protests in Sandton on Friday, I couldn't but wonder how long it will take for a women-led political movement to emerge from the raw and deep anger expressed toward institutions shaped by patriarchy.

The chasing away of ANC Women's League president Bathabile Dlamini from Friday's #AmINext march in Sandton was a clear signal to the governing party that their approach to gender-based violence has failed.

When the protestors chanted "Khwezi! Khwezi" at Dlamini, they told her they didn't forget that the organisation she leads, that so proudly championed the cause of women during the dark days of apartheid, defended a rape accused just because he was a powerful man.

For centuries, under British colonial rule, Afrikaner apartheid and the ANC majority, men have been entrusted with the most powerful positions in society that have shaped our body politic and societal norms.

WATCH | 'Khwezi! Khwezi!': ANCWL's Bathabile Dlamini heckled at #ShutDownSandton protest

The solutions to solving our massive crime problem aren't simple, but the one thing I know for sure is that a strong-arm police approach led by a general in a hat will not make things better.

Of course, perpetrators must be accosted, charged, tried and locked up if found guilty, but that approach alone doesn't even take us close to the kernel of the problem.

We have heard much about how poverty and socio-economic circumstances force people into crime, but there are countless societies that are just as poor or even poorer than South Africa with a fraction of the violent crime we have.

We need a complete rewrite of the way we think about crime and I propose that women lead this conversation, starting with the women who have occupied our streets for the past two weeks.

Why don't we ever ask the mothers, the aunties and the sisters what they think should be done to end this scourge?

Of course men should be part of the conversation and the solution, but for now it is our turn to listen. In the words of Joseph, Gxowa and their comrades: "You have tampered with the women, you have struck a rock."

- Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24 and author of the forthcoming book Blessed by Bosasa.

Read more on:    politics  |  gender rights
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