SOUTH AFRICA: Raising Their Fists Against Violence

Source: Sowetan
Documentary, titled Can't Just Fold Your Arms, dealing with male attitudes towards women, is now showing in Johannesburg.


HIS left hand is quite rigid, partially paralysed, as a result of a bullet that was fired at him by the apartheid police during political protests in the 1980s.

"The bullet went through my head, and it partially paralysed my left hand, and today some of the hardened, culturally- entrenched men who do not believe in the concept of equality between men and women at home, joke that I am soft on women because I cannot discipline them due to my disability," he says and lets out an infectious laugh that can be heard several metres away.

Mbuyiselo Botha is still protesting today in democratic South Africa, but only this time, he is protesting against a different scourge, violence against women.

Sonke Gender Justice Network works mainly with men in fighting the scourge of woman abuse, by dealing with well-entrenched cultural norms that encourage the idea that women are inferior to men, have come up with a hard-hitting documentary dealing with male attitudes towards women.

The documentary, titled Can't Just Fold Your Arms, is a quest by Sonke Gender Justice Network to transform men in post-apartheid South Africa.

This 55-minute documentary is directed by William Nessen, and features Botha, Dean Peacock and Patrick Godana, among other luminaries in the organisation. It shows today at Nu Metro in Hyde Park as part of the Encounters Film Festival currently on in Johannesburg.

"I have been a protester and activist for the past 20 years now, and I am still protesting today. The issue of abuse and violence against women is quite huge in the country and is serious. Abusive relationships are not only confined to the working class, they are equally prevalent in high society as well. Behind those high walls in the leafy suburbs there is serious abuse as well, mainly directed by men towards women.

"It is just that when a successful woman is wealthy and connected to high society, it is hard for her to come out and say: 'I am being abused'. The first thing in her mind is what will people say, and as a result they suffer in silence, and whenever they summon enough courage to speak out about the abuse people are often shocked," says the firebrand activist.

One powerful politician who definitely is not fond of Botha, is former ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema.

There is no love lost between the pair, especially after Sonke Gender Justice Network took Malema to court in a hate speech lawsuit for implying that the young woman who laid a charge of rape against then deputy president Jacob Zuma had "enjoyed" the experience, because she waited to have breakfast and asked for taxi fare.

Zuma was found not guilty.

"I think that people in high authority, former freedom fighters with whom some of us were in the trenches with, do not take women abuse seriously.

"They have somehow lost a sense of what the struggle was all about why we protested and fought the system during apartheid.

"Even when they talk about protecting women from abuse, somehow I think they are not serious about these programmes as they are just interested in the numbers and not substance," says Botha.

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