Harassment in New Order Continues Abuse by Some in Liberation Movement
BYLINE: SIMPHIWE SESANTI
WHEN African women marched side by side with women from other national groups on August 9, 1956, they did not risk their lives to be free from white men's bullying acts, only to be enslaved by black men.
But in this new South Africa that is supposed to be non-sexist, while working for nine months in the public sector, I was confronted with the evil that black "brothers" with anti-apartheid struggle credentials can do to their own "sisters".
I listened to narratives of how some black directors demanded sexual favours from their juniors as a token of appreciation for having been given jobs. I heard women relating how, after refusing the predators' sexual advances, they were given hell by the men in charge. This was done by finding fault with everything the women did.
And then, one day, a male colleague approvingly told me that another senior colleague had boasted that - in reference to female colleagues - "we hire and f***k" them. This cruelty is visited upon other men's wives, some children's mothers, only because these women want desperately to hang on to their jobs so that they can feed and educate their children - even at the expense of their dignity and pride.
But these narratives should have neither surprised nor shocked me. I should have seen them coming. Sexual exploitation of black women took place while the latter were in the trenches, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with black men for a non-racial and non-sexist order.
Once, while as a group of students we were about to be addressed by a liberation movement leader in Zimbabwe, instead of the leader opening with the customary revolutionary greeting, he declared: "Bantwana bam, imnand' indoda!" (My children, a man is delicious). While we giggled, the leader went on to declare: "Do not be fooled by our silence. We desire you, children of ours." The outburst had been provoked by a teenager who had come to the meeting wearing a miniskirt. The man, who was old enough to be the teenager's father, ominously warned that if our female comrades continued walking around in mini-skirts, he "would grab a child and devour her". The irony that he kept on referring to the females as "children", rightfully so, escaped him.
His behaviour flew, violently so, against the teachings of the liberation movement he misled (not led). The organisation's basic document called upon men to treat women with respect and accord them their dignity. As a leader, instead of terrorising the children, he was supposed to protect them, especially because, being in Zimbabwe at that time, they were far away from their homes and parents. …