OPINION: Even the dead still cry for justice
It is spooky, cold and painfully lonely here, despite the massive number of congregants. Relentless screaming and rumblings are the lifestyle. Melancholic calls of young children and women crying for justice add to the eeriness. What else can we expect from the quiet and solemn graveyard?
I look back at my life montage with mixed emotions. My name is Noxolo, born and bred in Gauteng. We were a family of nine girls: myself, Nomashwa, Mathapelo, Nomagugu, Lwandile, Sibonelo, Ntungufhadzeni, Hluphekile and Sister Gatvol. Sadly, all died at the hands of their boyfriends and husbands. I used to grace the streets and parks of Jozi with confidence and elegance. I embellished the stature of womanhood beyond belief. My future was as bright as the morning star. I was determined to achieve my youthful dreams. I loved how female judges looked in their attire and the way they delivered judgments. That was my childhood dream, until that unfortunate and gruesome night when I tapped out. The dude I madly loved ‘wa ndi hlinza [flayed me]’ like a sheep, hence my writing this letter from the graveyard!
I was only 25 years old when my misogynistic boyfriend bludgeoned my body and cruelly extinguished life from it. I recall one incident when, after battering me like a demented ram, he went down on both knees and apologised for his misdemeanours. Being a Noxolo, I accepted his fake apology, hopeful that he would reform and peace would reign in our hood. I should have taken my cue from his physical position and leveraged on hindsight – as the exact science. Going down on both knees was his ploy to gain my trust so he could later launch his devious plan – to kill me.
We go down on both knees when we are overwhelmed by vulnerability and solicit divine intervention. He used the symbolism of vulnerability to hoodwink me into a cosy lull. Damn, I fell for it with dire consequences ... my life! My dreams all cruelly aborted by a misogynist.
As fate would have it, my eight siblings too died through acts of misogyny. Nomashwa’s decapitated body was found among the bushes in the Eastern Cape. She was never preyed on by strangers; it was the bunch of numbskulls she grew up with. They expropriated her life through the familiarity principle; she never suspected that the very dudes she interacted with daily would kill her. Sadly, they killed her with chill conscience.
Both Mathapelo, resident of the Free State, and Nomagugu, from the Western Cape, were lured into the web of safari extravaganzas so that they could embellish nature. Who would not love to frolic with nature’s richness? Sadly, they returned in solemn boxes, having been killed by their entourage partners. Their prayers never dissuaded their killers to spare them and embrace ubuntu – I am because you are.
As we are reminiscing about past lives, Lwandile from KwaZulu-Natal, Sibonelo from Mpumalanga, Ntungufhadzeni from Limpopo and Hluphekile from North West share debilitating stories about their demise. They were brutalised by their partners in the midst of a powerless society that pulls the curtains at the sound of screams from down the street, too scared to become engaged crime witnesses, lest they became targets for reprisals. We are a society squeezed to death by crime. Ineffectual rhetoric serves temporal purposes, while crime tightens its grip on us all.
At the other end of the graveyard table, Sister Gatvol from the Northern Cape sits quietly, always caressing her graffiti-engraved face. She gave epic appraisal of how her pretty face morphed into a timeless graffiti mural. Relentless beatings and engraved okapi scars gave her that last gasp torque to defend herself from her monster boyfriend. She fought hard and went down with dignity. Though she prevailed over misogyny, she sadly could not recover from femicide battles.
Bloody nostalgia – why did we go back in time? I guess there isn’t much activity at the graveyards, except playing host to new members. It was, I suppose, a necessary re-enactment of life’s vicissitudes, different times zones, yet all deftly coalesce into graphic montages about human sufferings, especially for women and children in a democratic South Africa. The souls of the departed can’t rest; they yearn for justice and closure. Graveyards have become catalogues of misogyny and constant murals of the inhumane challenges women and children experience in our new democracy.
Two events stoked spooky conversations at the graveyard, namely, the #TotalShutdown and Women’s Day celebrations. Both marked different historical events in the country’s calendar.
While there are mixed views about #Totalshutdown’s efficacy, it was truly about time women took charge and emboldened their stance on femicide. It was also to amplify a national displeasure at the state’s ineptitude to effectively arrest women abuse and speedily resolve outstanding cases of femicide. On the other hand, Women’s Day celebrations were a reflective acknowledgement of the historic 1956 march by women to the Union Buildings in protest against an inhumane regime. In their submission, they equally decried how segregation laws undermined women’s rights and bona fides. That President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the occasion as the head of the state gave credence to it.
However, it would have been more significant if ordinary women and other luminaries outside governance were afforded an opportunity to ventilate on the plight of women and children, given their proximity to acts of misogyny and lived experiences. They would have pitched the femicide narrative appropriately and amplified plausible time-bound strategies to deal decisively with this scourge. It’s about time South Africa prioritised femicide and set efficacious operative strategies to arrest this national challenge.
“Even the dead still cry for justice” is a symbolic articulation on behalf of the departed, whose femicide cases are still pending while perpetrators grace the hood with machismo swag, but tears splash down the faces of the bereaved families. The narratives by the nine women drawn from the nine provinces is a deliberate amplification that crime and femicide know no place, they affect us all. It is our challenge; we must speedily address it.
- Monyooe is a concerned citizen
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