War on our women and children

Ryan Ravens, Accelerate Cape Town, chief executive officer

I am ashamed to be a South African man today. How have we fallen so far as a nation?

From being celebrated globally as the rainbow nation for our peaceful transition to democracy; for our Constitution, which stood as one of the best in the world because of the weight afforded to protecting basic human rights and freedoms; for our incredible diversity; for the promise we held as a nation to redefine the Afro-pessimistic perceptions that have plagued our continent for so long

How have we become a nation where our women cannot be or feel safe as they go about their daily lives? Even a mundane trip to the post office, spaza shop, or your school could be the day some perverted monster decides to end your life in the most horrible manner imaginable.

Worryingly, beyond the endless stream of publicised atrocities against women and children, many continue to feel unsafe inside their own homes and workplaces.

South Africa currently has the highest number of rape incidents per 100 000 citizens in the world. As shameful as that may be, these figures do not even take into account rape incidents that go unreported to the police.

According to the latest statistics, a woman is also murdered every three hours in South Africa.

When our women dared to raise their voices to the powers that be, assembled at a major international conference to chart Africa’s economic trajectory, they were met once again with violence – this time by men in uniform sanctioned by the very leaders who should be hearing their voices and taking decisive action protecting them.

Heaven forbid their carefully crafted political rhetoric should be disrupted by the anguished screams of our women and children.

Police that are seemingly impotent with respect to protecting our African compatriots were quite capable of restoring their masculinity by beating women into submission.

Conspicuously absent from the tormented cries of our women was the ANC Women’s League. A once respected and powerful faction fighting for the rights of women has deteriorated into a shameful organisation.

Is it any wonder that men in this country do not respect women when the league fought to defend a former president whose rule was overshadowed by an accusation of rape.

And how have we gone from celebrating diversity and the African Renaissance to burning alive our own African brothers in the street? Amid all this chaos and discontent, business is expected to invest, create jobs, and grow the economy.

Who should bear responsibility for the poor state of our nation? Who should answer for the collapse of a country that only a decade ago held such immense promise?

Much of the blame rests with our collective political leadership – the people who are trusted to work toward the upliftment of our citizens.

If we are to restore hope and any chance of a positive future, we need leadership that stands up to take decisive action – to protect our women and children, to safeguard our visiting brothers and sisters from other countries, and to demonstrate that the looting and corruption that has destroyed our country will be punished.

Beyond looking toward our politicians, South African men need to also look toward ourselves.

It’s not “violence against women” – it’s violence by men. We are the ones ultimately responsible for our actions. We are the ones who need to listen, understand, support and protect our beautiful and precious sisters, mothers, daughters, and partners.

We are the ones who need to take responsibility to be better men and maybe, just maybe, we may one day look around at each other and no longer be ashamed.