South Africa

Articles for the Daily Voice tabloid and South African Human Rights Commission. Summer 2008.

Daily Voice, 17th July 2008

A baby was found in a sanitary bin at the Matador building this morning.

Students from the expensive Boston Business College say “there was a terrible dead animal smell for the last two weeks, but we just thought it was plumbing problems so no-one said anything – we just didn’t go in there”.

As the smell worsened, cleaners avoided the bag too. At 3pm yesterday afternoon, Zidney Thembisle of Prestige Cleaning Company said his boss told him to “get the sanitary bin out of the building and dump it with the rubbish”.

Finding the bin full of foul smelling blood and fluid, he alerted fellow cleaner Thelma Kana of SaveAll recycling bin cleaners, who was horrified to discover a full-grown newborn baby. Prestige would not comment.

“The identity and circumstances of the alleged perpetrator are being investigated”, says Captain Randall Stoffels of Cape Town Central Police.

Cleaners think it could have been a girl on any floor. Students gossip “there are a few pregnant girls in the college; it would be easy for this to happen late in the quiet afternoons.”

“Security is everywhere – they think the girl got out through the fire escape and now no-one is allowed in or out. Our supervisors won’t tell us anything”.

The number of abandoned children in the Western Cape is rocketing: recent figures produced by the Department of Social Development show around 480 babies abandoned in 2007. In just six months the figure already stands at 432 for 2008.

Daily Voice Front Page, 18th July 2008

A man was stoned to death early on Friday morning for stealing a bag.

Nyileka Sgqola’s twenty-three year old brother Lyanda was brutally stoned to death amid the busy rush hour of Siyahlala Squatter Camp in Philippi.

The whole community came out to watch as community members threw grey bricks at Lyanda until he fell, his head landing on a rock “like a pillow” says his sister.

Lyanda and his accomplice tried to steal a 28 year old woman’s bag.

Shocked and frightened, she raised residents from their homes with screams for help.

A chase ensued but the Brown’s Farm boy was cornered before being “stoned like a dog” his sister says.

Through tears, 36 year old Nyileka told the Daily Voice her brother was “a good boy, who had recently gotten involved with the wrong crowd”.

He had turned to stealing with his ‘friends’, but this time he was not so lucky.

South African Police statistics put Philippi as the murder capital of South Africa.

Not only that – it has topped all other areas for three years in a row.

President of the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry Dr. Gerald Wolman said the statistics made people feel unsafe, causing many qualified professionals to leave the country.

Philippi is known locally for residents’ belief in mob justice.

Disillusioned with the police, residents think that the thieves would be released without charge if arrested, so they took the law into their own hands.

Even through her grief, Nyileka told the Daily Voice “I agree with this punishment – thieves should pay for their crimes. We knew he was stealing and everyday my family feared for his life”

So strong were her mixed feelings of support and grief, that she took her younger brother to see the elder’s battered and bleeding corpse.

“I want him to see what happens if he follows his brother’s recent behaviour.”

Capt. Sitshitshi says “Lyanda had been charged with two cases of rape in the past and armed robbery in 2002, but was not convicted.”

Cops have not found his accomplice but an investigation is under way.

The Western Cape reports the highest number of public violence crimes in South Africa; there were 248 cases last year, while the North West reported just 23.

Cops say they are trying to educate community members not to carry out mob-killings and warn those who do will be prosecuted.

The incident is being treated as a murder case, but it is unlikely that the community will point the finger.

Daily Voice, 18th July 2008

Football giant Man United snubs out-and-out South African fans

“Hear them before you see them” is the aspired reputation of Cape Town Man United supporters.

And the line you’ll hear? Glory, glory Man United. *whistle, whistle, cheer, *

And you won’t just hear them – they’ll be dancing, waving flags – oh, and they’ll be head-to-toe in red.

They’ve memorised over 17 chants.

But that’s just the dedicated official members.

There are thousands of unofficial supporters.

But why are these South Africans so excited about an English football team?

The Cape Town Supporters branch manager simply answers “because they are the best team in the world”
But he adds that “it brings the community together, giving light relief from the concrete jungle”.

Devon September says “it’s more than just a hobby – meetings take members’ minds of all the negatives of life as a hard-up Capetowner”.

Every year four lucky South African members bag season tickets, while the rest save their salary for the pilgrimage to Man United’s last home game of the season.

Yet despite their incredible loyalty and worship of the English team, fans have not been invited to be involved in this week’s Vodacom Challenge.

“We’re furious – it’s our support that makes Man United so popular, so it’s our support that is bringing them here.”

September enthuses “The challenge sees the football giants play the two financially top South African teams for a R1million prize.”

But the supporters say “its not about the money, it’s about the opportunity to see our idols.”Man united will play each team before the final next Saturday (26th July).

Daily Voice, 18th July 2008

Cape Flats boy Dalen Lance shows perseverance is the key.

The 25 year old star is to present new reality TV show High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa.
M-Net’s head of Original Productions says “he’s perfect for the role because of his extensive experience in the entertainment industry”.
Lance grew up in Atlantis, and climbed to fame when he reached the top 100 contestants in a similar show ‘Idols’.
The self-confessed work-a-holic says “time was an issue: I wrote songs on the bus on the way to school, studied by day and went to recording studios by night.”
Since then the 25 year old has released a single ‘Be Your Man’, taken the lead in the stage musical ‘Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ and presented the popular childrens TV show ‘Bling!’
He’s even tried his hand at acting in films ‘Dollars & White Pipes’ and ‘Zenon 3’.

2002 saw him placed in the Top 50 M-Net idols, while in 2003 he was in the Top 50 SABC Popstar nominations.
As if he didn’t have enough strings to his bow, Lance also has a Business degree from Cape Town University.
But he says it wasn’t just his parents who drove him
“I wanted to dig my own trench.”

Fischer says “he’ll be able to identify with the performers and be a role model for South Africans.”

More importantly, his achievements represent M-Net’s goals: Fischer thinks “the arts subjects complete education – students need to learn to be creative and think outside the box, but there’s too much pressure on students to ‘get a real job’ – something more academic.”

But Lance proves that you don’t need to be privileged to be successful, he says,

“My family taught me that no matter what’s going on, you can still be strong.”

You can catch Lance on 2nd August at 7pm when the show airs for the first time.

HIV Downgraded to Chronic Illness, 22nd July 2008

Once-a-Day Pill HIV Prevention

DESMOND Tutu’s HIV Foundation is pioneering new HIV prevention studies that could see HIV AIDS a chronic illness rather than a disease.

The PrEP program hopes to test a new once a day pill that could prevent healthy men from contracting HIV/AIDS. It follows studies with West African women, but it is the first time the drug will be tried with MSM (Men who have Sex with Men).

MSM are statistically the most at risk category of society for HIV.

“We use the term MSM largely to get away from identity,” says the program’s lead researcher, Earl Burrell.

“The majority of individuals like the word gay, but we don’t want to exclude people who wouldn’t identify themselves as gay,” he says.

With fifteen countries participating in the study, the race is on to see if the ‘one stop pill’ can help men take control of their sex lives like the contraceptive pill has done for women by preventing them from contracting HIV.

“It’s not a case of pop the pill now – it’s take it in the morning and then you don’t have to think about it” say Burrell’s associates.

“We strongly feel that it’s time to address the multiple vulnerable populations in Cape Town.”

Drug addicts, prostitutes and MSM were identified as the most vulnerable social groups to HIV “yet they have received only 11% of prevention studies”, the Desmond Tutu Foundation’s research shows.

Cape Town is the only African country to be part of the study, which includes a total number of 3000 participants from North and South America and Thailand.

“Normally it’s difficult to work with governments on this issue, but Cape Town is a cosmopolitan place,” researchers say.

“I think this is a pretty necessary and amazing technology and we’re proud that we got it here,” says Mr. Burrell.

Eligible participants must be over 18 and deemed to be healthy and sexually active MSM, but must also be deemed of high risk of contracting the virus.

The $2million project aims to de-stigmatize ‘at risk’ groups, after a survey of black and coloured Capetonian township residents revealed shocking figures.

34% tested HIV positive, yet only 2.8% were aware that they had contracted the virus. Only half always used protection, but only half of these used it correctly.

“We need to provide disadvantaged communities with the means for safer sex,” enthuses Mr. Burrell.

Critics worry that the easy one-pill prevention will lure men into a false sense of security, making them more exposed to the virus.

But Mr. Burrell says tests in Brazil suggest the study could cause men to alter their behaviour as the daily reminder combined with monthly tests and counselling cause participants to think more closely about their sexual activity.

“Taking a pill everyday served as a timely reminder of the imminent HIV risk and then the number of participants using a condom shot up from 52% to 94%”.

The Archbishop supports the program

“Prevention and treatment go hand-in-hand. And for prevention of HIV there must be more innovative, bold and honest messages, free of prejudicial restrictions and based upon sound evidence” says the archbishop.

Inside the Fence: Youngsfield Refugee Camp

WHEN xenophobic violence erupted in Cape Town in June 2008, 21 000 people were displaced into refugee camps all over the Western Cape Province.

Our director, Theo tells of his experiences as a Congolese father in the kaap at the time.

“I had to leave work and take my wife and children home. My kids didn’t go to school for three weeks for their own safety”.

Racism is almost a part of life in Cape Town. Three weeks into my stay in the city, I worked with a senior photographer named Jack. Without having ever been to Britain, he angrily told me that British people were racist and prejudiced, operating a class system that oppressed the poor and lower castes.

More worrying than his misconceptions was the passion with which he told me that he would not hesitate to kill a Brit. But somehow – perhaps because I was working for a coloured newspaper – I was removed from these sentiments; I was to blame for my ancestors’ actions in South Africa, but I was physically safe from his roth.

Three months on from the xenophobic outburst, 6000 refugees shelter in churches, schools and military bases in the Western Cape.

663 of these refugees squat at the Western Cape’s only military base camp: Youngsfield. The base provides protection for its inhabitants, but what keeps people out, can also keep in.

We’re citizens, yet we’re like prisoners here. Visitors cannot come in – it’s like a jail,” says one asylum seeker.

Ifrah is a young girl who likes to play outside with her friends and draw pictures. But her life took a very different turn when her family had to leave her home. She was born in Tanzania, yet displacement has given her a strong sense of belonging to the land of her parents and ancestors: Somalia.

At just thirteen, she has traveled extensively in Africa and South Africa, “People call me the traveler,” she smiles. But her smile comes from identifying with the new community she quotes, rather than the words’ implication on her life. When you’re constantly moved on, calling somewhere home is the most exciting adventure imaginable.

I was at Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth…I liked Durban. I just liked it, I don’t know why,” she says after bounding out of her tent with a big smile and very good English.

At 8am, Ifrah wakes up. She walks around the camp and fetches water before making porridge on a makeshift stove for her four brothers and sisters, as well as the other children in her tent, because her mother and aunties are pregnant and sick.

“Once breakfast is rationed out, I tidy the house.”

‘The house’ is a gazebo-type tent you or I would have a garden party in. When the camp first opened three months ago, over 400 people shared a tent like this. Now the camp is approaching closure, so half of the 1300 people have already been moved on.

Ifrah then baths her baby brothers, who range from two years old to six, using the porta-loo wash rooms. Water gushes from the floor onto the piles of sludge-like rubbish outside.
Then I go and play” she smiles.
‘When?’ I wonder, because at 1pm the Red Cross appears with a limited quantity of rice for lunch. Many of the pregnant women smell the food and can’t eat.
With no school organized yet and the threat of xenophobic violence outside the fences of the military base, Ifrah has nothing to do for the rest of the day but daily chores and thinking of her home and ambiguous future.
Walking through the refugee camp men, women and children tell you they want to go home. But they know this will probably never happen, so they want to work, to buy a house and re-build their life.
Of course the sick, elderly or pregnant complain about the conditions, but the able make do. There is something far more important than sharing ten porta-loos and four taps with 1300 people on a muddy field in the wind and rain of South African winter: dignity.
“We want to work” is the refrain heard too often from people who once lived ordinary lives until violence and corruption forced them to leave their homes, businesses and families. When you can’t go home, where you live ceases to be as important as the fact that you do indeed, live.

But is sitting in a muddy tent waiting for hand outs living?

“We want to get a job, buy a house and rebuild our lives – somewhere,” they say.

These are not lazy people who land on South African turf and expect a meal deal with accommodation. They seek refuge.

But South Africa is a country still reeling from another country’s occupation in their land, and of their people. Democracy brought change and development but it also brought corruption. The raw feelings that existed during apartheid have gone underground, beneath the majority who strive for equality, but they still exist, and everywhere the words ‘dangerous’ and ‘be careful’ hang on the air like an accepted and almost unnoticed fact of nature.
Yet the community leaders in Youngsfield camp are hopeful. They want to reclaim their dignity by helping their own people.
Abdul Gauri excitedly waves the keys for an office in his hands. The figures for NGO’s donations and what the refugees have received don’t add up. But more importantly, the camp is due to close in just over a month and there is an urgent need for repatriation and rehabilitation.
But the lease runs out in a month and there’s no money.
At 5pm the Red Cross is back. The healthy, sick, elderly, pregnant and young alike form a long line to receive two slices of dry bread and a cup of tea.
Ifrah lines up with the rest then goes to play with the other children.

A Day in the Life of a Somali Refugee Girl

IFRAH is a young girl who likes to play outside with her friends and draw pictures. But her life took a very different turn when her family had to leave her home. She was born in Tanzania, yet displacement has given her a strong sense of belonging to the land of her parents and ancestors: Somalia.

At just 13, she has traveled extensively in Africa and South Africa,

“People call me the traveler,” she smiles.

But her smile comes from identifying with the new community she quotes, rather than the words’ implication on her life. When you’re constantly moved on, calling somewhere home is the most exciting adventure imaginable.

“I was at Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth…I liked Durban. I just liked it, I don’t know why,” she says after bounding out of her tent with a big smile and very good English.

At 8am, Ifrah wakes up. She walks around the camp and fetches water before making porridge on a makeshift stove for her four brothers and sisters, as well as the other children in her tent, because her mother and aunties are pregnant and sick.

“Once breakfast is rationed out, I tidy the house.”

‘The house’ is a gazebo-type tent you or I would have a garden party in. When the camp first opened three months ago, over 400 people shared a tent like this. Now the camp is approaching closure, so half of the 1200 people have already been moved on.

Ifrah then baths her baby brothers, who range from two years old to six, using the porta-loo wash rooms. Water gushes from the floor onto the piles of sludge-like rubbish outside.

“Then I go and play” she smiles.

‘When?’ I wonder, because at 1pm the Red Cross appears with a limited quantity of rice for lunch. Many of the pregnant women smell the food and can’t eat.

With no school organized yet and the threat of xenophobic violence outside the fences of the military base, Ifrah has nothing to do for the rest of the day but daily chores and thinking of her home and ambiguous future.

Walking through the refugee camp men, women and children tell you they want to go home. But they know this will probably never happen, so they want to work, to buy a house and re-build their life. Somewhere.

At 5pm the Red Cross is back. The healthy, sick, elderly, pregnant and young alike form a long line to receive two slices of dry bread and a cup of tea. Ifrah lines up with the rest then goes to play with the other children.

By 6.30pm daylight has gone and the threat of poisonous snakes in the mud and grass takes Ifrah into her tent with her family.

With nothing to do, she goes to bed at 8pm, ready to repeat the experience tomorrow, but always in the hope that tomorrow someone will come with a uniform and tell her she can go to school.

Kidz Day at Youngsfield Refugee Camp

PROJECTS ABOARD volunteers spent an amazing sunny afternoon on a muddy field singing, dancing, face-painting and playing football with 50 refugee kids.

French volunteer Gautier says “it’s the first thing I’ve done here that really made me feel useful”.

After a lot of hard work, the kids’ day was a huge success. Canadian volunteer Alex was the driving force. She wanted to do something fun for the kids after meeting them at the refugee camp while monitoring conditions.

“I wanted to give them something to look forward to as opposed to just monitoring, to provide some kind of happiness even if it was just for a moment…the smiling, happy faces of all those children jumping about was so good to see,” she says.

Monitoring conditions in the camp is a big part of the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office’s week and involves talking to refugees about their conditions and treatment, as well as working towards establishing and developing their future.

Interns’ reports aid the South African Human Rights Commission in liaising with the Department of Home Affairs, and so give voice to these vulnerable people.

But change is slow and each time the interns visit, people become increasingly disheartened if nothing seems to be happening.

“In a way we gained everything and nothing; seeing the kids’ energy and enthusiasm was so inspiring, especially when everything seemed chaotic and we didn’t know what to do. But it was only a snapshot of happiness, just a moment,” says Alex.

But interns are still positive and treating the event as a learning experience.

“We saw what can be done, and what should be done – next time,” says Alex.

American volunteer Sami says “it was a dream come true from the time I put that book in that girl’s hand to seeing those kids dancing and singing. Even if it was just for an hour or two, the pain and misery wasn’t there,” he says.

Though volunteers keep coming and the work will still continue, the sad part of Projects Abroad is that we all leave at some point.

The opportunity of meeting so many interesting people from many different countries and cultures is great, but with people coming and going all the time it’s hard to say goodbye.

Spending time with the refugees and getting to know them tugs at the heart strings just as much; seeing little pockets of exciting progress in a sea of bureaucracy makes it difficult to walk away.

Alex expresses the resounding words on everyone’s hearts;
“But their future is so ambiguous. We’re leaving and what’s going to happen to them?”

Truth, Reconciliation and Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison

I’m standing in a corridor with no windows. The walls, ceiling and floor are all made of the same heavy material, not to mention the psychedelic sloping and I have the impression that I’m in a large rabbit warren. The only way I’m getting out is forward or back. In front of me is a guard with a cartoon-like giant key. Behind me is Mr. Kula, Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons in the Western Cape.

Brushing my left elbow is a bright orange baggy cotton sleeve. It belongs to one of the many prisoners standing free next to me as they queue for yellow slop in their polystyrene cartons. To my right is the barred door through which I am about to enter a communal cell.

There are 14 thin metal bunk beds but it is immediately obvious that there are not 28 people in here. Men – though ‘young lads’ is probably a better description – sit everywhere; high, low, on window ledges, on beds, and on the floor. The Independent Prison Inspector (IPV) asks how many are in the cell. A low rumble comes back: ‘70’.

South African prisons are currently running at over 45% capacity. At least that’s the average, some are worse. Pollsmoor can cater for 1872 prisoners; at the start of 2008, there were 4526, of which 3923 were unsentenced.

Overcrowding is greatest in the unsentenced sections, largely because inmates cannot afford bail fees of around R300 (about $30), yet one prisoner costs the South African taxpayer R190 per day.

My eyes glide over the pictures of semi-naked white women until they rest on a purple box precariously balanced above the open-plan cordoned off section that contains the cell’s one toilet. It’s a makeshift bed. At least two adult men will sleep on it tonight.

I’m grateful that its winter and I’m wearing at least five layers. A burka would be more liberating right now.

Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison is commonly thought of as the roughest prison in the Western Cape. I will be told later that I am the only woman to have entered without holding the position of Prison Inspector.

Yet the inspector I’m with bounds about the building like an excited kid showing off his friends and teachers to his parents at school. There’s a friendly vibe and a feeling of community. It’s hard to believe that the prison is home to some of the worst sexual violence and most notorious gangs in South Africa.

The main three gangs are the 28s, the 27s and the 26s. Each gang serves a purpose in the vital network of survival.

The 26s are merchants, organising the trade of material items into and inside the prison, by means of theft, robbery and bribery.

The 27s are the soldiers, carrying out the disposal of wardens or inmates who ‘need to be taken care of’.

The 28s are by far the most dangerous, controlling the other gangs and trading the most powerful necessity in the prison: sex. Members of the 28 gang either go into the ‘blood line’ (or the red or gold line) or the ‘silver line’. Initiation into the blood line requires the taking of blood, initiation into the silver line requires becoming a leader’s wyfie and being raped.

A wyfie cleans and washes as well as performing sexual favours for the idolata (leader) and as such is the most degrading role. If an inmate refuses to be part of the gang, they will often be raped anyway or even killed. This loss of manhood causes great psychological distress, but membership into the gang provides protection ‘inside’.

The gang culture means that a criminal will enter the prison for a petty crime, but often end up committing a greater crime such as rape or murder inside the prison. This increases their sentence and when they do get out, they are often back within a year for a more serious crime, learned within the prison.

There is a call for more efficient repatriation and counselling work to limit the number of re-offenders, but with gross overcrowding, the safety and security of inmates is the priority.
Under these conditions, Bonnytoun House is a ray of hope.

‘Bonny’ calls itself a ‘place of safety’ for teenagers awaiting trial. There are currently 160 kids bounding around its halls or wrapped in a blanket on plastic chairs in front of the TV. With a ratio of seven children to one care worker, their future seems more hopeful. The centre provides counselling and repatriation as well as academic and practical education.

Although many of the boys come from communities with strong gang cultures, gangs and sexual violence are not so much of a problem as substance abuse. Dagga (cannabis) and Mandrax are common in the Western Cape, but now ‘tik’ (pronounced ‘tk’) users shadow Cape Town. Despite the fact that some of the boys are only 13 or 14, anti-drug training and counselling is a large part of what the hundred care workers and five social workers do at Bonnytoun House.

“Children cannot commit crime” says the Doli incapax rule of law. Yet children in Bonnytoun house have committed violent crimes such as robbery and murder.

Bonnytoun House believes that there are always societal or domestic causes of a child’s behaviour, crime included.

Counselling and family therapy can help to identify and understand the root causes of a child’s behaviour, so they can be addressed, in the hope of reducing re-offending rates and giving the child a second chance.

Head Social worker Elise Cassiem told the story of a 16 year old Muslim boy accused of house breaking. Mark* livied in the knowledge that his mother was dead after she abandoned him at just a few months old. However, when he was 14, relatives invited the family to his mother’s funeral in Johannesburg. The lies were so devastating to him that he ran away from home.

In and out of court, Mark first got in trouble when he stole a gun for an older man. When the gun was used Mark was framed for the crime, but spoke out, causing his father and grandfather to give up everything they had to move around the Eastern and Western Cape for his protection.

Mark came to Elise’s attention after he told stories of his father’s abuse and alcoholism, which were later revealed to be untrue. He was taken in by a kind friend and started attending church, but his crimes continued.

After counselling and family therapy Elise realised his crimes were merely the expression of a child’s feelings of betrayal and anger. The next day Mark’s teacher was amazed by his changed behaviour. Now Mark is awaiting trial at home with his father and grandfather.

Township sports clubs such as boxing and rope skipping are other initiatives that aim to get kids off the streets and away from street gangs and drugs.

Nine-year old Mkhululi Gosa, a World Rope Skipping champion from Cape Flats’ township Khayelitsha found the gymnastic sport when he was seven years old.

“I followed a group of skippers to the local gym and when I saw what they were doing, I thought, ‘I’ve got to stop loitering around this township and do this!’” he smiles.

He is just one success story in millions of unheard voices, but street and prison gangs continue to grow in number and violence.

Gender Transformation in DEmocratic Cape Town

Business Unusual – all power to women’ (CGE Motto, 2008)

“IF 500 000 women are being raped every year, why haven’t we turned in arms?” protests an angry young woman.

Her name is Nomalanga Nkhize, it’s the eve if International Women’s Day and she’s angry because two young women were recently killed in Sowetto for no greater reason than their sexual orientation.
But she’s referring to more than just ‘gender transformation’ as we know it. She refers to a history of oppression and inequality, “a civil war waged by an army of men against women”, where “slavery has been institutionalized rape”.

Sixteen years after the end of apartheid, Yvette Abrahams, head of women’s transformation in Cape Town is quick to comfort her anger.

“We have to appreciate history in terms of the arms struggle – increasing violence only increases violence against women,” says Yvette.

Painful truth lies behind her swords. A woman is raped in South Africa every 17 seconds and one in four South African women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Yet women comprise over half of the South African population.

“I’m proud to be a woman and a woman who likes women, but we don’t think with our virginas,” she jokes. The British came with patriarchal assumptions. Cultures change. We’re talking about women’s ability to resist, not blaming men” she said.

Her colleague Robert Morell of the University of Guasorinatol and author of ‘Baba’ agrees with Mirjam Van Donk’s plea: “the struggle for women needs men”.

“Generally speaking, where women have fought with men, they’ve lost. So it disturbs me that we’re talking about fighting men. We need to find a way of creating space and purpose for men in gender transformation,” he says.

He speaks the words of a country that is tired with violence.

“Ethel Fugard once said ‘the only way you know how to talk is to hit’. We have been measuring masculinity by the red on the rev counter,”

he says with shame and disappointment.

“Single-sex boys’ schools cultivate this particular violence – and I’m talking about elite as well as township schools.”

“Feminism is a western quality – it does not agree in my culture. Yet, we are walking a lonely road. We must change the thinking that if you’re in Khayleisha and you’re attacked but don’t respond, there’s something wrong with you,”

says Mabuyiselo Botha, a highly respected Capetonian.

His sentiments come from this year’s anti-patriarchy campaign in Sowetto ‘Not in My Name’, which aims to change certain cultural expectations of African men.

“”If there are benefits to men in patriarchy, they are very limited,” he says.

“I’m fortunate that I was raised by illiterate, compassionate single women and learnt values that you cannot learn from a university. I’m doing this for my children – I want my daughter to leave University at night knowing that society respects her.”

Mbuyisel Botha is a self confessed minority in the room,

“I’m young, I’m a man and I’m black,” he jokes. “Men should and can play a role in change, but women need to continue to lead the struggle,” he says.

This seems to be the theme of gender transformation in South Africa today. Ms. Van Donk calls it “changing the script”; it’s not so much freedom for women, as freedom for men.

Mr. Morrell’s challenge is “What is men’s role? Is it going to be obstinate or facilitative?”

‘Laykai’: St. Anne’s Women’s Shelter

ST. Anne’s Women’s Homes began when an Anglican group set up a home for 25 women in 1904 in answer to the needs of the many homeless and destitute women in Cape Town. Since then, many aspects of the NGO have been adapted to more appropriately meet the needs of women.

Today police and social workers take women and their children who end up on the streets to the shelters, where they are looked after for up to ten months.

The shelter provides all necessaries as well as vocational and spiritual training and support, with the aim of helping women find employment.

If unable to return home, women who have found jobs can then go on to the women’s home, which offers more independent, safe accommodation with other women in similar situations, where they can stay for up to a year until they have found their feet.

Women’s Rights Interns began a new term for their four month program at St. Anne’s Woodstock shelter last week.

The program aims to inform women of their and their children’s rights, as well as their responsibilities to their children in an informal, friendly setting. Volunteers have been getting to know the women and developing trusting relationships with them.

Last week, Pauline, Dongyon, Angel, Jamie and I met Dene, Luarissa, Ruth, Porcia and Sophie.

Just walking into the teaching room is a visual assault; paper on the very walls that bring security bear witness to their testimonies. ‘Moer’, ‘badly’, ‘bruised’, ‘beaten with pots and pans and belts’ in various handwritings answer ‘How Badly were You Beaten as a Child?’ Further down the writing is smaller,

“Abused with a broom stick or burned with a plastic house pipe or pinched between the legs”

But the next piece of flip-chart paper reads ‘Effective discipline: E –Empathy, C – Content, A – Action’.

The first session can be summered up by what the ladies taught me: ‘laykai’, which means ‘hello’ in one of the Western Cape tribal languages. It is an icebreaker session, where we get to know each other so that our conversation can break down cultural barriers as well as natural shyness.

The second session was exciting for us as volunteers, because the women trusted us enough to tell us their stories. The session identified what constitutes domestic violence and some of its causes. Our rights were discussed as well as possible options in a situation that is very far from black and white.

Interestingly, three of the six volunteers who went had experienced domestic violence themselves, uniting us as women, regardless of nationality.

Interns listened to amazing tales of courage and strength in the face of adversity. Many of the women have been subjected to domestic violence by their husbands, parents or step-parents for many years before finding refuge.

Now they are searching for jobs and looking forward to being able to support themselves and their children, where before they had to rely on their oppressors.

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