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Archive for the ‘Academic’ Category

Familicides – how apartheid killed its own: An excerpt from The End of Whiteness by Nicky Falkof

Nicky Falkof, University of the Witwatersrand

The End of WhitenessIn this extract from her book, “The End of Whiteness: Satanism and Family Murder in Late Apartheid South Africa”, the University of the Witwatersrand’s Nicky Falkof explores how during the height of apartheid family murders became what was termed a “bloody epidemic”.

The terms “family murder”/“gesinsmoord” only came into frequent use in South Africa in the early 1980s. Murders within families had, of course, happened before but had not been defined in this way. Those deaths were reported as individual tragic killings rather than as symptoms of a larger social problem. Family murder as a phenomenon was particular to the late apartheid era and developed when it did because it had meaning outside of itself.

By 1984, amid burgeoning cultural awareness of a national “problem” of family murder, the term was sufficiently entrenched to merit a three-page article in the popular Afrikaans magazine Huisgenoot, often a social barometer of white Afrikanerdom. This considered three recent murders, of Aurica Costin, Mirian Swanepoel and Talitha Hamman, all killed by estranged spouses who subsequently committed suicide.

These deaths, coming at the start of the panic, did not fit with ideas about family murder that became set as the decade progressed. Family murder was later characterised as something separate from domestic violence, an act that involved a family structure – always children, sometimes other relatives too – rather than just a couple, and almost always ended in the suicide of the killer.

Nonetheless at this early stage Huisgenoot referred to the Costin, Swanepoel and Hamman killings as “gesinstragedies” (“family tragedies”) and to the killers as “family murderers”. The magazine called the deaths a “bloedige epidemie” (“bloody epidemic”).

Paranoia at work

Huisgenoot’s article was part of an emergent repertoire of representation about family murder that included the exhortation for the public to watch out for the “warning signs” listed in the pages of popular publications. There was a certain paranoia at work here.

If the family murderer was always white, male and Afrikaans then it followed that each white, male and Afrikaans person could have the seeds of murder within him. The injunction to watch each other potentially accused all people who fitted into this mould. All white Afrikaans men could be marked with the possibility of this type of evil and it became everyone’s duty to observe them.

Huisgenoot also reported, “[Family murder is] a sign of a sick society, say psychologists.” Press responses to family murder turned to psychiatry and medicalisation early on. The notion of expanded blame – that society as a whole rather than just the killer was responsible for these deaths – also came to the forefront early in the coverage of these killings.

Similarly, family murder was understood as a sign of larger ills. In an article on South Africa’s “new brutality”, the right wing Aida Parker Newsletter, secretly sponsored by intelligence divisions within the South African Police, classified family murder alongside child abuse and other social ills as the consequence of a “sick society”.

That was a society newly filled with pornography, “enlightened” churches that preached politics instead of religious obedience, high divorce rates, “trendy” sex across the colour line and newly “liberal” attitudes towards abortion, homosexuality and lesbianism. All of these ills were contrary to the rights of the majority who wished to “live in an ordered, humane, civilised society”.

Death of a daughter

On November 4 1984 Gert Botha (38) shot and killed his ex-wife Maretha (35), their daughter Madaleen (15) and himself. Although there had been two similar cases the previous month, this one garnered far more press coverage, at least partly because of the idealisation of the murdered daughter.

“Madaleen, 15, was the beauty of the family. She had already won one pageant … Next year she would be a prefect. That night the family was torn apart. Mrs Botha lay dead. Madaleen was shot in the stomach and the eye when she ran into the bedroom after the first bullets were fired. Gert Botha turned the gun on himself,” reported Huisgenoot at the time.

Madaleen’s healthy normality was repeatedly emphasised in the press. Her gender and ethnicity were combined to depict her as a perfect white Afrikaans daughter. She was the model victim of a social plague. This was in contrast to parental dysfunction. Newspapers insisted that Gert and Maretha’s constant fighting should have alerted their community to the looming tragedy.

Saving families

Ideas about warning signs were part of the medicalisation of the family murder, the belief that there was a set of symptoms that could be spotted and avoided. This social-psychiatric narrative also implied that the unwary were to blame for disaster.

The Sunday Tribune, an English-language weekly newspaper published in what was then Natal province, went as far as to use the standfirst, “Family ignored danger signs – and paid with their loved ones’ lives”. Complacency and lack of communal care were blamed for the destruction of white South African youth. Society was failing to protect the young from dangers that could have been anticipated.

An editorial in the Afrikaans daily Beeld, titled “Kommerwekkend” (“Worrisome”), speculated that deaths like the Bothas’ were part of a national crime problem, the result of a society that was too violent, with firearms too easily available.

The Weekend Argus in Cape Town called the deaths part of a “frightening chronicle” of killings and printed a list of possible causes agreed upon by several unnamed psychologists: “unemployment, stress, sex, the availability of firearms, misplaced religious beliefs, immaturity, alcohol, fears about the future and ‘hot weather’”.

This list avoided the most influential, volatile and unsettling factor that affected South African society. Save from fear of the future, apartheid was given no place in a consideration of why family murders happened, although notions of Afrikanerness and gendered cultural identity crept in in the form of religion, immaturity and sexual issues.

Later in the period other experts suggested a different causal model for family murder that implicated the violence of apartheid as a primary factor. The family murder panic was thus part of a cultural shift. It helped to inaugurate a public discussion of the fact that apartheid could be dangerously brutalising for white people, allowing them to be critical of the system without having to acknowledge the far more damaging consequences it had had for black South Africans.

The Conversation

Nicky Falkof, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Local anger is rising against South Africa’s ‘resource curse’

BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist CritiquePatrick Bond, University of the Witwatersrand

South African society’s conflict with a mainstay of the country’s corporate economy – resource extraction – is permanently on display in the platinum, gold and coalfields in the north and north-east of the country. Now communities on the country’s East Coast are confronting mining houses. This is the area that supplied Zulu and Xhosa workers to the mines. And now the mines are coming home.

The latest incident, which claimed the life of a leading anti-mining activist, comes as poorer South Africans feel the effects of soaring food, transport and electricity prices. The misery and anger is compounded by the fact that the government has been shrinking state welfare grants – not in nominal terms, but after adjustment for the cost of living.

Growing impatience with economic conditions has resulted in protests across the country reaching new levels of intensity. Violence against activists also appears to be intensifying.

Resistance is rising

On March 22 Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, a grassroots critic of a proposed Australian dune-mining project on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, was shot at his home by assailants posing as police officers. The attack has shaken communities and environmentalists. A few weeks before his death, the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a local activist group, rejected an environmental impact assessment by titanium-hungry Mineral Commodities Limited, a Perth-based mining firm. The company has previously run into conflict with communities in Sierra Leone and Namaqualand.

The death of Rhadebe follows other acts of intimidation and violence. The week before, a few hours’ drive up the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, a lorry belonging to Bongani Pearce was set alight at midnight. Pearce lives near Somkhele, a vast coal mine run by Johannesburg-based Petmin. The attack came hours after Pearce led a militant community march to the local council.

Like the organisation led by Rhadebe, Pearce’s Mpukunyoni Community Property Association represents dozens of local villages whose residents are angered by high levels of corruption and maladministration. They believe this is largely due to collusion between local political elites and mining companies, and that it is robbing their community of its livelihood.

Resistance is rising as quickly as the price of commodities crashes: coal from a $170/tonne peak in 2008 to $50; and titanium from $8.80/kg in 2011 to $3.80. Mining profitability now requires replacing the 2002-11 era’s rising prices with much higher throughput – greater quantity at much lower prices. With this, the metabolism of the conflict is quickening.

Mining is blasting new holes in the social fabric.

Protests are increasingly common in areas mainly populated by rural women, including the former KwaZulu homeland strips to the east and west of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game park, an area populated by a number of coal mining houses. Last week the Zululand Anthracite Colliery, until recently owned by RioTinto, suffered arson attacks by residents demanding jobs.

Reduced government spending

Setting aside ubiquitous corruption, government’s two major economic policy weaknesses are excessive fiscal stinginess for the poor, combined with intensified state investment in mining-supportive infrastructure.

After last month’s slow-motion-austerity budget was announced, 16.5 million poor people face cuts in the real value of grants by several percentage points. According to the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action, the cost of a poor household’s minimalist monthly R1,650 food basket rose 9% from November 2015 to January 2016. Annualised, that is more than 25% or, as the organiser’s lead researcher Julie Smith notes,

eight times higher than the average monthly increases over the preceding year.

The 3.5% grant increase Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan gave foster-care children and 6.1% provided to other dependent children has already evaporated. In February consumer price inflation rose to 7%. This is before state-owned electricity utility Eskom applies its 9.4% price hike.

Steeper increases in electricity and transport, coupled with higher food prices, mean that women are increasingly limited in the diversity of food they put in their shopping trolleys.

Food, transport and electricity account for about 90% of expenditure for most low-income Pietermaritzburg households, says Smith. This makes a mockery of the consumer price index weighting of less than 50% of the total household basket for these items. Subsidies for other basic-needs items have also been cut, including for municipal services and housing.

Infrastructure spend on the rise

In contrast, Gordhan budgeted R292 billion from 2016-18 for new transport and logistics infrastructure. This includes the two leading presidential strategic projects:

  • state-owned transport company Transnet’s new coal rail line to Richards Bay, aiming to export 18 billion tonnes; and

  • its South Durban port-petrochemical expansion, aiming to increase container traffic from 2.5 million to 20 million annually by 2040.

Gordhan gained the praise of ratings agency Moody’s senior vice president Kristin Lindow, who supports budget cutting, except when it comes to

preserving growth-supporting capital spending.

Even setting aside their contribution to growth-sapping climate change, including KwaZulu-Natal’s current drought, do such mega-projects really qualify?

Durban residents have seen billions in taxpayer funds breed a stampeding white elephant herd. These include a World Cup soccer stadium, convention centre and the uShaka Point development – all requiring ongoing subsidisation. Add to this the new King Shaka airport and Dube Tradeport, which suffer massive overcapacity.

At a Sharpeville Day commemoration this week, South Durban activists vowed to block the port-petrochemical expansion. This follows recent protests against container trucks in the area.

If the state continues to squeeze poor people’s daily budget and pour subsidies into mega-projects serving mining and shipping capital, revolts like these in President Jacob Zuma’s main patronage province will well up with growing vigour.

Like Rhadebe’s Amadiba Crisis Committee and so many other infuriated east coast residents, Pearce and the Somkhele activists intimately understand why South Africa is “resource cursed”. And like others opposed to state capture by dubious corporations and families, these communities vow to keep fighting no matter the rising danger.

The Conversation

Patrick Bond, Professor of Political Economy, University of the Witwatersrand

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Don’t miss the launch of Rape: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Dineo Gqola at WiSER

Rape: A South African NightmareWiSER invites you to the launch of Pumla Dineo Gqola’s new book Rape: A South African Nightmare.

The seminar will take place at Wits University on Wednesday, 2 March, at 6 PM.

The discussion will be chaired by Danai Mupotsa, with Sarah Godsell and Malebo Gololo as respondents.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 2 March 2016
  • Time: 6 to 7:30 PM
  • Venue: WiSER Seminar Room
    6th Floor Richard Ward Building
    East Campus
    Wits University
    Johannesburg | Map
  • Chair: Danai Mupotsa
  • Respondents: Sarah Godsell and Malebo Gololo
  • RSVP: Najibha.Deshmukh@wits.ac.za

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“We need to rebuild a mass-based feminist movement” – excerpt from Rape: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Dineo Gqola

“We need to rebuild a mass-based feminist movement” – an excerpt from Rape: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Dineo Gqola

 
RapeIn Rape: A South African Nightmare, Pumla Dineo Gqola investigates and analyses South Africa’s complex relationship with sexual violence, and examines society’s response to high profile rape cases, including those of President Jacob Zuma, Bob Hewitt and Baby Tshepang, in an attempt to bring together divergent conversations on the subject.

Gqola is Professor of African literary and gender studies at Wits University and the author of What is Slavery to Me? Postcolonial/Slave memory in Post-apartheid South Africa (published by Wits Press in 2010) and A Renegade Called Simphiwe (published by MFBooks Joburg in 2013).

Jacana Media has shared two excerpts from the book. In the first, Gqola examines the connections between political and gender-based violence, looks at how trauma and patriarchal structures affect rape survivors, and suggests new strategies to combat a future of rape and violence.

The second excerpt, which will be published soon, considers child rape and the case of Baby Tshepang.

Read part 1:

* * * * *

Various feminists have argued that violence is one of the constitutive elements of South African society. It is such an intimate core that it grounds both historic and contemporary identity formation and contestation. In other words, explanations for the scourge of violence in South Africa need to be contextualised both against this backdrop of normalised and ingrained vast histories of violence and feminist understandings that misogynist and heteronormative violence are manifestations that reflect and perpetuate the very patriarchal nature of South African society.

Although feminists and other gender progressives would still wage critical war against gender-based violence under different circumstances, it is integral to the successes we carve to keep an eye on the myriad ways in which experiences and justifications of political violence are used to excuse and/or justify gender-based violence as well. South Africa is a country in deep denial about the causes of various phenomena such as gender-based violence.

As I put the last words down in this book, I realise how much the process of writing this has actually illuminated for me. One of the most frustrating things in my thinking and work on rape over the last two decades has been my inability to really understand how women who were themselves once raped do not feel empathy for those who speak of their own rape. I knew it had something to do with the way in which patriarchy says that women do not matter, that they/we are not fully human. In the language of Blackness, patriarchy really inculcates self-hate in women like all violent oppressive systems do. Yet, somehow this never felt like enough of an answer. I understood why survivors warn others against pressing charges or otherwise going public. What continued to bother me were the ways in which some survivors taunt and otherwise subject other survivors to secondary victimisation.

As I watch women question, taunt, disbelieve and help persecute other women who speak out against rape, the question has stayed with me. As I re-read an essay I was very familiar with, Yvette Abrahams’s “Was Eva raped?” a different illumination came upon me, as I read the section on how rape makes the assaulted less than human. Abrahams writes that because rape changes a survivor’s internal world in devastating ways, bringing about a real crisis in who she is and how things work, a survivor has to make sense of it somehow, and this is paramount. Therefore any meaning that allows her to make sense of it can be taken on board and used; even a meaning that engenders guilt in the survivor is preferable to helplessness. Preferable is not quite an appropriate word for what I mean here because this is a ‘preference’ in the absence of any healing, self-affirming resource. It is harder sometimes when faced with trauma to constantly revisit what she could have done differently than to arrive at a conclusion, even a harmful one.

Abrahams writes:

[h]umanness is a quality which is hard to live without. To react to rape by implicating oneself may not be the best reaction, but it is a workable one. Thus the dehumanisation of rape does not lie in the act alone, nor only in the memory of it, but in the trauma which induces the rape victim to deny her own subjectivity. Paradoxically, her path back to full humanness becomes blocked by the necessity of granting the rapist a human face.

We need to rethink how we move away from the current situation in which there is too little on holding perpetrators accountable. Although we have rendered gender-based violence abnormal in public talk and at legal level as successive feminists in the world, we have managed to do this without minimising it. It is still commonplace, and many violent men can just say they disapprove and distance themselves at the same time as going back to acting in violent ways.

It is imperative to create the kinds of realities that give survivors healthier choices to make sense of surviving rape, to look at the ways in which our tools have not only stopped working, but the many ways in which their co-option enables them to work in anti-feminist ways. I no longer think a small minority of men are holding us hostage. It is a painful realisation and way to live, and one that I have resisted for most of my life, and it may be one I will move through to discover joy on the other side.

In the meantime, I think we need to rebuild a mass-based feminist movement, a clearer sense of who our allies in this fight really are, to return to women’s spaces as we develop new strategies and ways to speak again in our own name, to push back against the backlash that threatens to swallow us all whole. I also think we need to defend the terrain we are losing, because it seems to me that the backlash is working to keep more and more of us if not compliant, then afraid. Yet, a future free of rape and violence is one we deserve, and one we must create.

 
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The New Black Middle Class in South Africa: Roger Southall’s analysis of the reshaping of society

This is an important and promising study. The history, sociology and politics of the black middle class in contemporary South Africa is a significant topic; it is scantily addressed in existing scholarship; and the author tackles it head on. The treatment is based upon wide reading and an impressive command of the literature; a huge amount of information is marshalled and assessed; the arguments and findings are judicious and persuasive. It clearly merits publication – and will enhance existing analysis of contemporary South African political economy. – Colin Bundy

The New Black Middle Class in South AfricaJacana Media is proud to present The New Black Middle Class in South Africa by Roger Southall:

Despite the fact that the “rise of the black middle class” is one of the most visible aspects of post-apartheid society and a major actor in the reshaping of South African society, analysis of it has been lacking. Rather, the image presented by the media has been of “black diamonds”, that is, above all, as consumers of the products of advanced industrial society, and of corrupt “tenderpreneurs” who use their political connections to obtain contracts which they would otherwise be denied. At the same time, the restrictions upon black professional and entrepreneurial activity in the apartheid era stunted the development of black capitalism and the black middle class, while the growth of a substantial black working class which became the class vanguard of the political liberation of South Africa, pushed the role of the middle class into the shadows.

This book presents a new way of looking at the Black Middle Class which seeks to complicate that picture, an analysis that reveals the impact of its role in the recent history of South Africa. It provides a careful account of its historical development in colonial society prior to 1994 before examining the size, shape and structure of the middle class in contemporary South Africa, class formation under the ANC, education and black upward social mobility, the black middle class at work, the social life of the black middle class, and its political role in the shaping of a democratic society in the post-apartheid era.

The trajectory of the black middle class in South Africa is related to that of its counterparts in the Global South. While the book offers the most comprehensive account of the black middle class since Leo Kuper wrote on the subject in the early 1960s, it also seeks to make a major contribution to the burgeoning debate about the middle class globally.

Contents

1. Why study the black middle class?

2. What do we mean by ‘middle class’?

3. The Black Middle Class in South Africa 1910–1994

4. The Black Middle Class in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Size, Shape and Structure

5. Leg up? Class Formation under the ANC

6. Education and Black Upward Social Mobility

7. The Black Middle Class at Work

8. The Social World of the Black Middle Class

9. The Black Middle Class and Democracy

10. Conclusion

Notes

Index

About the author

Roger Southall is an Honorary Professor in Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, and was previously Distinguished Research Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council and Professor of Political Studies at Rhodes University. Prior to that he worked in universities in Uganda, Lesotho, Canada and the UK. He is the author or editor of about a dozen books. He founded the HSRC’s State of the Nation project, and coedited the first four volumes. He has also published extensively on African politics, political economy and labour in leading academic journals, as well as contributing chapters to numerous books. He is editor of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies.

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Don’t miss the launch of Rape by Pumla Dineo Gqola at The Steve Biko Centre in King William’s Town

Invitation to the launch of Rape: A South African Nightmare

 
Rape: A South African NightmareThe Steve Biko Foundation invites you to the launch of Rape: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Dineo Gqola.

South Africa has been labelled the “world’s rape capital”. In this highly readable book, Gqola unpacks our complex relationship with sexual violence and asks what we can learn from famous rape cases, such as the trials of President Jacob Zuma, Bob Hewitt, Makhaya Ntini and Baby Tshepang as well as the feminist responses to the Anene Booysen case.

The launch will take place at The Steve Biko Centre in the Ginsberg Township of King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape, on Wednesday, 17 February.

Don’t miss this important event.

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 17 February 2016
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: The Steven Biko Centre
    One Zotshie Street
    Ginsberg
    King William’s Town
    Eastern Cape | Map
  • RSVP: The Steve Biko Centre, rsvp@sbf.org.za, 043 605 6700

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Christopher J Lee Argues for the Complexity and Continued Importance of Frantz Fanon in A New Jacana Pocket History

A Jacana Pocket History: Frantz Fanon“Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.” – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Psychiatrist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon (1925 – 1961) is one of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century. Born on the island of Martinique, he died in the United States from cancer, following a meteoric career that took him to France, Algeria, Tunisia, and numerous places in between. He presented powerful critiques of racism, colonialism and nationalism in his classic books, Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961). Yet Fanon remains controversial, given his advocacy of violent struggle, and, consequently, is often misunderstood.

“Christopher Lee has written a delightfully compelling introduction to the works, life and times of Frantz Fanon. Well researched and thoroughly grounded, Lee’s study admirably situates Fanon in the broadest historical context, while subtly explaining Fanon’s powerful legacy today. This book taught me many things, revealing in intriguing ways the works of a black thinker from Martinique who so passionately embraced the Algerian Revolution, and so ardently desired to be embraced by it.” – Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

This biography seeks to demythologise Fanon by situating his life and ideas within the historical circumstances he encountered. Synthesising a range of secondary literature with first-hand readings of his work, it elevates enduring aspects of Fanon’s legacy, while also countering interpretations of his writing that have granted uncritical omniscience to his views. Written with clarity and passion, Lee’s account ultimately argues for the complexity of Frantz Fanon and his continued importance today.

About the author

Christopher J Lee is based at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is the editor of Making a World after Empire: The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives (2010), which was recently shortlisted for the 2015 Africa-Asia Book Prize, and the author of Unreasonable Histories: Nativism, Multiracial Lives, and the Genealogical Imagination in British Africa (2014). He has previously taught in the United States and Canada at Stanford, Harvard, Dalhousie, and at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He received his PhD in African history from Stanford University.

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Don’t Miss the Launch of Rape: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Dineo Gqola at WiSER

PLEASE NOTE: This event has been postponed – keep an eye on Books LIVE for further details

Rape: A South African NightmareWiSER and Jacana would like to invite you to the launch of Rape: A South African Nightmare by Pumla Dineo Gqola.

PLEASE NOTE: This event has been postponed – keep an eye on Books LIVE for further details

In Rape, Gqola unpacks the complex relationship South Africa has with rape by paying attention to the patterns and trends of rape, asking what we can learn from famous cases and why South Africa is losing the battle against rape.

Gqola will be speaking about her book with Sarah Godsell and Malebo Gololo, in a conversation chaired by Danai Mupotsa. The event will take place in the WiSER Seminar Room on Wednesday, 21 October, from 6 to 7:30 PM.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 21 October 2015
  • Time: 6 to 7:30 PM
  • Venue: WiSER Seminar Room
    6th Floor Richard Ward Building
    East Campus
    Wits University | Map
  • Panel: Danai Mupotsa (chair), Sarah Godsell and Malebo Gololo
  • RSVP: Najibha Deshmukh, Najibha.Deshmukh@wits.ac.za

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We Need to Change the Way we Talk About Rape – Pumla Dineo Gqola (Podcast)

RapePumla Dineo Gqola chatted to Redi Tlhabi in the Radio 702 studio recently about her new book, Rape: A South African Nightmare.

Rape: A South African Nightmare is a highly readable book in which Gqola interrogates South Africa’s complex relationship with sexual violence. The book examines the high profile rape trials of President Jacob Zuma, Makhaya Ntini and Baby Tshepang and asks penetrating questions about what characterises public responses to rape.

Gqola is the author of What is Slavery to Me? Postcolonial/Slave memory in Post-apartheid South Africa and A Renegade Called Simphiwe. She is Professor of African Literary and Gender Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

“What is wrong with the way we approach rape in South Africa?” Tlhabi asks.

“Several things,” Gqola says. “The most important is that we talk about it all the time, but we have the same conversation over and over again. And it’s a conversation that makes us feel more and more helpless. We ask the same questions, but we don’t really answer those questions.

“We also deal with each rape as an incident. We are horrified, we are mystified, and then we call in to shows, and write in to papers, and we talk to our friends, we say the same things over and over again. We are outraged, we are frightened. And yet this constant talking about it hides the fact that the discourse is not moving.

She continues: “As long as we continue to think about rapes as isolated incidents, we will continue to be helpless.”

Listen to the podcast:


 

 

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Pumla Dineo Gqola Unpacks “Unrapeable” Constructs and Rape Culture at the Launch of Rape: A South African Nightmare

Pumla Dineo Gqola

 
RapeProlific academic and social analyst Pumla Dineo Gqola’s latest book, Rape: A South African Nightmare, confronts South Africa’s conscience by examining its response to high profile rape cases, including those of President Jacob Zuma, Bob Hewitt and Baby Tshepang.

Published by Jacana imprint MF Books, Rape translates rigorous academia into an accessible – yet still analytical – text, written to provoke conversations around sexual assault and its prevalence in South Africa.

Melinda Ferguson with Pumla Dineo GqolaIn conversation with publisher Melinda Ferguson at the book launch at Love Books, Gqola said she was reluctant to write the book at first. “I didn’t want to spend months and months thinking about rape, but it is a book I felt compelled to write. People seemed frustrated about the rape crisis and what should be done, and there were all these separate conversations happening on radio, on campus, at POWA. I wondered what would happen if I brought all those conversations together, where instead of talking to our own tribes, we talked across. And so I wanted to contribute beyond my spaces to shift the conversation,” Gqola said.

Ferguson mentioned an incident at the recent Open Book Festival in Cape Town, where Gqola drew some audience ire around the concept of the “unrapeable”. “People couldn’t really get their heads around the unrapeable, which you speak clearly and extensively about in the book, that are those in society that are seen as unrapeable,” Ferguson said. Gqola responded, “I tried to show that what makes up a part of rape culture is the reliance on this paradox that some people are legally and socially constructed as unrapeable, meaning that they’re not impossible to rape in the real sense, but in the law there’s the historic creation that it is not possible to have rape associated with these people, married women for example. Some people at Open Book misunderstood that. It doesn’t mean that a married woman can’t get raped, but that society says you can’t rape her because she’s your wife. Part of creating rape culture or expanding the mythology is this construction of who is unrapeable. That tells us something about that society.”

Gqola defended her decision on not having a specific chapter dedicated to lesbian curative/corrective rape. “It was important I talk about different kinds of rape. I didn’t want to have a specific chapter because the naming comes from the recognition that there are different experiences of rape, but in the movement to mainstream public consciousness, the category ‘curative’ has come in to stand in for something exceptional. This categorisation is doing the opposite work, so instead I tried to put it everywhere instead of in just one chapter. It’s part of what I say in that there is no ‘normal’ rape,” Gqola said.

Pumla Dineo GqolaFerguson asked what effects the Zuma rape trial had on South Africa. For Gqola, it was the end of innocence. “I was much more interested in what happened outside the courtroom. It allowed us to put a magnifying glass on society. We came face to face with thousands of people who were willing to do whatever it took to support a man they believed had not raped,” Gqola said. “What was scary for me was that none of these people knew Zuma personally, that they were willing to bus across the country and believe with absolute certainty in a person they admired, but didn’t know; that there was no way he could do this and then say ‘burn the bitch’. It forced us all to have a very different conversation about rape. It was the constant negotiation about what matters. What is it about famous men that allows us to give ourselves permission to stand with them when we have no way of knowing?” she said.

Gqola is Professor of African Literary and Gender Studies at Wits University. This is her her third book, following What is Slavery to Me? Postcolonial/Slave memory in Post-apartheid South Africa (Wits Press, 2010) and A Renegade Called Simphiwe (MF Books, 2013).

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Saaleha Idrees Bamjee (@saaleha) tweeted from the event using #livebooks:


 

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