In troubled times, newshounds burden readers with heartbreaking news of war, famine, starvation, death and just about anything troubling the mind. We feed our people with more of the worst of human nature than the beauty and peace of our lands. We are not about to change…
Of late we have hounded you poor readers, and ourselves poor newshounds, with stories especially of murder and rape of our women and children. Day after day, the police have been releasing reports of femicide, and just about all kinds of abuse, worst of sexual nature across land Botswana.
But then I am forced to look at how the nation of South Africa compares with us in handling the issues of gender based violence (GBV). Here, when gender activists aggressively took to social media last week and said #enoughisenough with killings and sexual abuse of women and children, and demanded the political leadership to rise and have their voices heard, many of our parliamentarians either ignored it or responded negatively. One, Thapelo Olopeng, a minister responsible for youth affairs, the most affected by GBV, was alleged to have dismissively said people should report cases of abuse to the police. Surely he could not have said that! But then the minister went further, targeted specific activists and blocked the sharing option of his posts. I just gave up on him, because I felt he could not have missed the point that much.
And the point was, as a legislator, a minister for that matter, his voice against GBV carries more weight than that of ordinary us. And his position allows him to influence and change legislation to protect his people, who include women and children. Simple.
But it is not as simple for some. For another youthful legislator, Sedirwa Kgoroba, whose constituency Mogoditshane is one of the most troubled in crime statistics, instead of addressing the concerns raised, went about blocking activists. I know because I fell to his axe on FB.
Thankfully other leaders responded positively. President Mokgweetsi Masisi took to social media immediately, and used his Police Day speech to address GBV.
His message was on point, and the hope is that his promise to engage aspects of the law will come to pass.
That he was not paying lip service. Also coming to the party were MPs Ndaba Gaolathe and Noah Salakae. To say come let’s, together, engage and find working solutions to the problem goes a long way. Also, as expected really, was Mme Botlhogile Tshireletso, who used her Kgotla meetings to speak to the leadership and people of Mahalapye on the effects of GBV.
Back to South Africa; this is a nation, when troubled, tend to rise in overwhelming numbers and tackle issues head-on. When a Rhodes University student, Khensani Maseko committed suicide after reporting that she was, three months earlier, raped by her boyfriend and fellow EFF activists, the nation got mad. Here when a young political activist, Sesame Nakedi reported that years earlier she was raped by Gaborone Mayor, Kagiso Thutlwe, we condemned
Our neighbours, already on the streets protesting GBV as part of Women’s Month programme, thousands of South Africans mounted demonstrations, and held memorial services for the deceased.
“Tears for Khensani” fell, both the political and education leadership came forth, making public declarations on ending violence of sexual, physical and all other ways to ensure Khensani did not die in vain. EFF leader, Julius Malema, spoke openly and was remorseful.
And then come home. A sick man refuses to hand over a head of his victim to be given decent burial. We express disgust. Then life moves on. A grandson and his friend rape a 90-year old. She dies days later. We are in shock momentarily. More and more statistics of rape and murder are shared. In no time, we have forgotten, and my asking you, week on, to rally around such issues, may be irritating to some. We would rather forget the trauma and hide our heads in the sand, ostrich-style!
For if we really were moved, we would have done something years back when a man chopped his girlfriend’s head, put it in a bucket and handed it to her family. We would have been moved to action last year when Aplee Moagi went to the home of his ex-girlfriend and took his daughter’s nine-year old elder sibling, a Standard 3 pupil, Pearl Koketso Modibedi; raped, killed and threw her naked body on the streets.
I say we are less bothered because if we were, we would have had tears for Koketso and went on a rampage until leadership stood and did something. Today my tears fall for Koketso and many children molested and abused by family and community members. How many of us really care to be moved to action?
For if we really did, we would have responded to the call for prayers by women in politics at the Main Mall on Wednesday so our thunderous cry for action, echoed across the road to Parliament. But then even our legislators are a disappointment. At the Wednesday evening service, the only MPs who bothered to be amongst the crying mothers were Mme Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Rre Gaolathe. Is this a sign of how lawmakers view the death of a woman? Of a girl-child?
But then maybe one day, Batswana will rise in numbers to say enough is enough. Hopefully it will not be too late. We will be able to all rally around for the safety of our daughters, mothers, grandmothers, and counsel the boy-child, whose neglect can be the reason we are where we are today.