How many lives are enough?
I thought it might be an overkill to do another piece on gender-based violence. Then I immediately countered my own thought with “but it can’t be, not when every other day we are subjected to headlines with the names of more fallen soldiers in the war against Gender-based violence”.
I don’t know why I am always more angered by GBV murder reports during August. I think it’s because I feel like men go out of their way to make sure that we women know they don’t value our lives. Not even under the guise of a whole month dedicated solely to women will they think twice before shamelessly taking one of our lives.
Worse than that for me, is that the ones we hear about are only the ones who made the news. There are 100s more that we don’t hear about. I think every person reading this piece today knows of someone who has been brutally assaulted, raped or murdered but their story didn’t make the news. As I’m writing this I immediately get a flashback of someone I know who was raped and murdered in her house by her ex-husband and the father of her children while one of their sons listened helplessly from a locked bathroom.
How are we still here South Africa? Is it because the men who do this do not know the effect their actions have on the children whose mothers they have taken away? Or is it because they simply DO NOT CARE? Do they not know that when they exercise their patriarchal-society inducted male privilege over a life that was never theirs to take; it affects a whole family, a whole community, a whole nation?
It pains me to think that these very perpetrators have younger men, who lack the presence of a positive male role model, looking up to them. Thinking, “if he could get away with it, then I probably will too”. These perpetrators are so often heroed for their publicly displayed micro-aggressions. We hear men in conversation or jokingly say – ‘is by my hierso’, we hear them discuss disciplining their women ‘met ‘n plat hand’ nothing too hectic. ‘(ungandi qheli) Andi qhelwa ngumfazi’ – loosely translated to “she shouldn’t get fresh with me, I don’t get told by a woman” and in this day and age these men are still loudly applauded by others and only silently condemned.
A young man, very dear to my heart, Cantona James lost his mother at the age of 13 (having just started high school) and his little sister Kelly a mere 8 years old at the time.
I remember Thea being one of the most supportive mothers I knew, she was at every school prize-giving, sport gathering, whatever her kids were into; she was there cheering them on. She volunteered at school functions at every opportunity she could. She still made Cantona kiss her goodbye, even in his prime teenage years, when she dropped him off at school. Kelly was the top academic achiever of her grade every year and we could all see the endless potential she had to become everything she dreamed of being – I mean she had the support of a mother who would sacrifice it all for her.
This life they knew was snatched away from them by the hands of a murderer. Now they are in a world where they can rely only on each other, where a 22 year old is forced to grow up, and be a fully-fledged adult in order to make the best decisions he can for him and his little sister, who at 16 turning 17 is not so little anymore. Kids who knew the unconditional love of a mother no longer have that. Yes, they have the love of a grandmother, aunt or old friend of their mother’s, however, all mothers know; there is no one that could possibly give your child the unconditional self-sacrificial love you do.
These perpetrators have left the kids of Thea James, Nkosihile Nkambule, Lawren Shernice Jonathan and countless others with no mother to share their wins with. No mother to go cry to when their worlds seem to be crumbling. They have left them with no mother to protect them from their father, uncle or lover who tries to harm them, they are left with no mother who would die for them before letting devastation befall them.
Some of these victims themselves are just kids. Kids who don’t deserve their view of the world and freedom of choice to be soiled and revoked by a man who has decided what he would do with his authority, with his role as a father, brother or son.
We mourn the safety of our mothers, sisters, daughters, the lives of Tazne Van Wyk, Kwasa Zozo Lugalo, Nkosiphile Nkambule, and so many more who we’ve lost in this war on unequal battle grounds.
Dear Mr Perpetrator, think not only of your own life, and the life you wrongfully intend to terminate. Think of what your actions will leave – those left behind – without.