I must say that it took me a long time to finally pen this piece down because these days when you write about figures like Cyril Ramaphosa, you get swallowed into the trending headlines and find yourself an active player in the gallery.
One dangerous thing about playing to the gallery is that you do not have time to think and you don’t set the topic of what you want to write about. The gallery sets the topic for you and you come under pressure to write something that will stand out in the entire gallery.
As a result, you swim carefully between exaggeration and downplaying events at the risk of misdiagnosing the social problem, misleading your audience in the process, receiving personal attacks, and wasting the space you were given by the publisher.
However, as bad as it may be, sometimes it is important to offer your opinion using the gallery with the hope that your view will reach as many people as possible. My goal has always been to offer accurate analysis of the immediate socio-economic issues facing our people, rather than personalities.
In this instance, I will be using the personality of the gallery (Cyril Ramaphosa) to share a socio-economic issue (patriarchy) with the hope of reaching and enlightening millions of readers to inspire their liberation and obviously to be on the receiving end of attacks. That’s okay.
It was reported in the Sunday Independent that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, also a married man, has had sexual relations with about eight students. The focus of Ramaphosa, his supporters, government communication, the media and even the ANC itself have been on the assertion that these revelations were acquired unlawfully and they are being used to disrupt his campaign for president in the ANC’s December elective conference.
Other extremists have went even further to purport narratives such as: (a) these girls were after his money anyway, (b) every man does that, (c) Jacob Zuma is worse, (d) at least the scandal isn’t about stealing our funds, and (e) these girls are lying and he never slept with them. I’ll try to dismiss all these narratives collectively.
There is a general assumption in the public driven by patriarchy that powerful men are deemed to have an unlimited access to free sex with whoever woman they desire that they come across. They have a large pool of options of available sex without obligations. Patriarchal society assures powerful men that they are entitled to the appearance, bodies, opinions, attention, conversation, time, and decision-making of females.
That is why Ramaphosa’s supporters are able to say “these girls love money anyway or no these girls are lying, he never slept with them”.
It is because patriarchy has grilled it deep into their psychology that whenever a sexual allegation against a powerful man is brought up, their subconscious and immediate response is to compare the social position of the woman stated against the powerful man and to ask: “If he can have unlimited access to free sex with whoever he desires, why wouldn’t he have it with you?” Or they ask, “if he can have unlimited access to free sex with whoever he desires, why would you, of all people, say no?”
It is this “access to unlimited free sex with whoever he desires” narrative that silences society from asking the important questions about Ramaphosa’s conduct. How does a public figure of his stature, a deputy president of a country with the highest HIV/Aids infection rate in the world, have multiple sexual partners? What does this do to the moral fibre of society and the institution of marriage in a country riddled with high rates of divorce and fatherless families?
Where does this put the overall status and imagery of men in our communities? How does his wife, children and extended family feel? Does he think of them? Nobody asks those questions.
Instead, patriarchy jumps to defend Ramaphosa as it always does for men. Artificial events such as leaked emails, the conference campaign and election “sabotage” all divert our attention from the violation of human life.
The effects of Ramaphosa’s conduct on his wife and children are invisible in the discussion. In fact, it is as though his family does not exist. Ramaphosa’s job and the integrity of his office remains unaffected, a consequence that would not have been the case had Ramaphosa been a woman.
As for the eight women that he has slept with, they remain subjects without names and voices. Even if they were perhaps raped by Ramaphosa, patriarchy was still going to jump in defence of the violence and ask, “if he can have unlimited access to free sex with whoever he desires, why would you, of all people, say no?”
As Professor Pumla Gqola states in her book titled Rape, A South African Nightmare: “Nobody wins against a hero!”
- Pedro Mzileni is a master’s sociology student and SRC President at Nelson Mandela University.
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