On Monday, South Africans witnessed the horrific sight of a man, an ANC branch secretary no less, kicking a middle-aged woman in the ribs as she fell to the street outside the party’s Luthuli House headquarters.
The man was “defending” the ANC against protesters from Andile Mngxitama’s Black First Land First movement, who were there to demand that President Jacob Zuma remain in his job until next year’s general elections.
The aftermath of this pitiful scene was predictable.
The man, branch 62 ward secretary Thabiso Setona, was suspended from the party.
The woman, Orange Farm shack resident Olivia Makete (52) – who only went to Luthuli House after being told she’d be protesting against the lack of service delivery in the city and was transported like protest fodder on a bakkie by Mngxitama’s people – was swarmed by reporters at her home the next day.
This is all well and good. But nothing – nothing at all – is going to change. Because, fellow South Africans, this is who we are as a people.
If we’ve allowed a man with views that come from the Dark Ages about gender relations and the status of women in society to lead the country for nine years, surely we don’t believe that men should bear the consequences of their actions.
If former higher education deputy minister Mduduzi Manana gets to keep earning his more than R1 million annual salary as an MP and keep his seat on the ANC’s national executive committee – even after being convicted of beating three women at a nightclub – then we are not intent on acting against men who abuse their power.
And if kwaito star Arthur Mafokate can get to pose on the front cover of a prominent magazine and gush about his family – shortly after allegedly beating girlfriend Cici so badly that she landed up in hospital – then we as a nation are not serious.
Annual police crime stats indicate that women abuse is a daily occurrence, however Setona should not worry about this suspension.
Precedent shows us that he’ll get his normal life back, even if he is found guilty of assault.
The only reason he was suspended was because his attack on a woman was just one skirmish in a wider battle for power between two men – Zuma and ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa.
It’s not the first time a woman’s body has been the site of battle. And it won’t be the last.