Last week Thursday South Africa woke up to distressing reports that a film production crew including young models were brutalised and allegedly raped by 10 men clad in blankets, balaclavas and mining apparel believed to be members of the notorious Zama Zama miners.
Shooting at mine dumps
According to the police, the group of men first raped eight women – the youngest being 19 years old – in an area called West Village in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg. The film crew was busy shooting a music video around the disused mine dumps when they were ambushed and attacked. They were also robbed of their clothes, cellphones, rings, passports, watches, cameras, cash, handbags and other valuables. At the time of writing, over 80 suspects have been arrested while two were reportedly killed during a shootout with the police.
Scourge of GBV
President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the key social players who condemned the gruesome incident and called for swifter and harsher consequences for the perpetrators of the attacks. Addressing the scourge of GBV and femicide related cases late last year, President Ramaphosa described violence perpetrated by men against women as a second pandemic facing the country. He said men are the main culprits of GBV, including rape and domestic violence and appealed to them to report such cases including raising awareness, peer education and prevention measures.
Allocating necessary resources
The president also said his government has allocated necessary resources to combat GBV. These include, among others:
- broad legislative reforms
- offering support to survivors through the provision of evidence kits at police stations and
- psycho-social services.
Trauma of GBV
Notwithstanding the trauma inflicted on the national psyche, this incident was not the first or the last horrific attack on women. To most women these violations are a daily occurrence even though most of their stories never make it to the media. Some of them have survived to tell the tale about their GBV ordeals but they are still carrying deep physical, emotional and psychological wounds. Residents of the West Village and neighbouring areas told how they spend most of their time holed up in their houses for fear of rape and brutal attacks from marauding illegal miners.
Dampening spirit of Women’s Month
It is as if these gruesome attacks were deliberately timed to disrupt the ‘2002 Women’s Month’, held annually in August to celebrate and highlight struggles and challenges faced by women. It also occurred on the same day that the family, friends and women in general welcomed the sentencing to life of Ntuthuko Shoba who masterminded the brutal murder of her pregnant girlfriend, Tshegofatso Pule.
South Africa has witnessed other similar heinous GBV attacks before, they include the murder of Karabo Mokoena in 2018, by her then boyfriend, Sandile Mantsoe, who stabbed her to death and tried to hide the murder by burning her remains. Her death sparked outrage and led to the #MenAreTrash march. The following year, 19-years old Uyinene Mrwetyana, was bludgeoned to death in the suburb of Claremont and this also triggered similar indignation as scores of women protested under the banner of #TotalShutdown movement.
Covid-19 exacerbated GBV
Crime statistics released last year by the South African Police Service, showed an increase in rape and domestic violence. The number of rapes stood at 9,556 – an increase of 634, or 7.1%, from July to September 2021. Data and reports gleaned from various global organisations monitoring violence and abuses showed that all forms of violence and abuse against women and girls shot up during the Covid-19 pandemic. They also observed that as health facilities across the globe battled to cope with the coronavirus patients, domestic violence centres and helplines also witnessed surges in the GBV and domestic abuse reports.
The Krugersdorp mishap including other egregious GBV cases clearly foregrounds the twin evils of masculine toxicity and patriarchy. These take the form of unbridled violence, rape, misogyny and male sense of superiority over female. Nombulelo Shange, a respected voice on gender issues, also blames GBV on patriarchy which she says is a physical and symbolic display of male violence directed at women and other marginalised gender groups such as the LGBTQ+ community.
Band aid solutions
“It is a structural feature of the current family and social set up. It is a common, predictable symptom of a society that threads the idea of women being inferior across all social spaces, be it churches, places of work, academic institutions, government and our communities at large,” said Shange. To eliminate GBV, society must confront head-on patriarchy first, she said, adding “any solutions that look at GBV as isolated and not as structural causation are nothing more that band aid solutions, they will not work”.