Speech by the Deputy Minister of Communications, Ms Pinky Kekana (MP), at Mama Albertina Sisulu Women Dialogue at Tshwane University of technology (Mbombela Campus)
Ladies and Gentlemen
Our gracious host Tshwane University of Technology Campus Rector: Dr Kenneth Netshiombo
Member of the Mayoral Committee responsible for Energy Councillor Mashego
Speaker of the City of Mbomela Councillor Msibi
The Executive Mayor for the City of Mbombela Councillor Mathonsi in absentia
I am humbled to be in your midst as we reflect on the life and times of one of our greatest stalwart and heroine Mama Albertina Sisulu. I also think that it is no coincidence that we reflect on the life and times of this great woman of fortitude at a time where the question of gender based violence is at centre of the nation’s collective consciousness. Unlike in previous years, the question of gender based violence has not arisen because we are celebrating 16 days of activism against women and children, it has been a perennial discussion, and I think we will be better for this.
Of course, discussions are great they help us formulate and test ideas, but discussions alone do not solve societal problems. We need to be practical, we need to assess the effects of our actions.
As we sit here today we have the privilege to not only assess the actions of the Mama Sisulu, but we are actually enjoying the fruits of her action. Throughout her life Mama Sisulu based her life around service to others, and she did so with the utmost integrity and dignity, she lived to serve to the people of South Africa.
Mama Sisulu stood firm against a formidable regime, and definitely laid the bricks for us to build a democratic non-sexist and non-racial South Africa. She is the embodiment of Thuma Mina. A citizen who stands up in trying times against all odds. There is no question that we are indebted to her and her ilk for the various freedoms we enjoy.
Despite, the heroic actions of Mama Sisulu and her ilk, a lot of work needs to be carried forward. We need to carry the baton she has left and ensure that we move forwards not backwards. Moving forward requires us to fight patriarchy and misogyny. We need to start calling things as they are.
The blatant truth is that women are not safe everywhere in the church, on campus, in the workplace, and at home. In fact renowned author and activist Bell Hooks, sums it up well when she says, “For too long the term domestic violence has been used as a "soft" term which suggests it emerges in an intimate context that is private and somehow less threatening, less brutal, than the violence that takes place outside the home. This is not so, since more women are beaten and murdered in the home than on the outside.”
Institutions also need to be reformed. As I understand this institution is also taking its gender policy to task. Everyone must held accountable even SRC members who have abused their positions of trust by sexually exploiting girls for rooms. I would like to urge Universities and colleges to take accusations of sexual exploition and violence against women seriously. Ensure that the allegations are dealt with promptly and the survivors must be protected from secondary victimisation.
Let me also say that it is high time we review, judicial system, if there is one thing the Omotoso Trial has brought to the fray is the manner in which women are trialled despite being complaintants. Our court system structure and processes, and the people working within it, inadvertently re-victimise and re-traumatise survivors seeking help. At the Gender based violence summit at the end of this month, I will recommended that we shift the “burden of proof so that it lies with perpetrators not survivors.
I do not think there is any debate that women making rape complaints, find it overwhelming, women who are raped are should not subject themselves to have their credibility and character assassinated in the witness box . But so long as a woman cannot make a rape accusation without her integrity being called into question that she has exaggerated or lied in making her claim, the barrier remains.
Whilst we cannot ignore the fact that the abuse of women, children, and sometimes men, is the by-product of the brutality of capitalism. Entrenched poverty and unemployment, alienation, the lack of prospects and access to culture—all of this generates immense frustration and tensions that can contribute to family breakdowns, anti-social behaviour such as alcoholism and drug abuse, and incidents of violence.
We need to ensure that the judicial system protects the most vulnerable in society.
I believe it is possible to have a judicial system that enables a defendant to have the evidence tested, but rather than face a defence counsel, which can be humiliating, a more controlled way is for the judge to conduct the examination, with counsel conferring with the judge beforehand. Let’s embody the spirit of Mama Sisulu and act where it is mostly required.
I thank you.
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