It’s All Funny Until Someone Gets Hurt

It’s still Spring in Cape Town – all moody beauty cloaked in fresh winds and pale new green. But two things happened this week that were far from the ordinary – that’s beyond an understatement: they’re really the stuff of horror.

The first thing: The youth wing of South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC – (you remember them, right? The party that gave us icons like Nelson Mandela) – held their annual conference. In itself, that’s pretty normal, except they’ve been racked with internal dissent and this year’s politics-fest was meant to bring everyone into line.

It turns out that it must have been an exceptionally tense business. Why? After the conference, one of their members went home to find his girlfriend out. He duly searched her down, then brought her back to his place and proceeded to *sjambok (bullwhip) her to death.

I know, how can I announce that so lightly? Truth is, I don’t. When the small 10-line report appeared, I searched it down and tried to find more details. So many questions: how long does it take to bullwhip someone to death; how did no-one hear this; if they heard, why did no-one intervene or call the cops? And that’s not all. In a country and an era when misogyny is one of the most hated and talked-about things, why were none of the usually vociferous women’s rights groups melting down social media regarding this story? What was with the blank-faced and stony silence?

I’d like to tell you that I found answers, but I didn’t. Which is not to say I don’t have them, but they’re answers I’ve had to figure out for myself:

Truth is, it takes a while to bullwhip someone to death, and it’s not a silent business. But, if you’re a member of the ruling party’s youth league, there’s every chance that you’re feared, and who wants to be the interfering person who gets targeted later?

As for the brave souls whose lives are devoted to bringing down patriarchy and misogyny? Well, they’re only up for bringing down patriarchal misogynists who don’t have the power or inclination to actually hurt them. As long as you’re one of their relatives, a harmless neighbour or some middle-aged guy who doesn’t own a gun, you’d better watch out.

The second thing that happened? I’ll save that for next time.

  • Sjambok – bullwhip, pronounced shambock


2 thoughts on “It’s All Funny Until Someone Gets Hurt

  1. Horrifying. Particularly that apologies for human beings like this one are finding themselves in positions of influence. And even more particularly that nobody had the understanding, courage or decency to intervene.

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