What the South African media has been referring to as “gender-based violence” is another symptom of a broken society as a result of colonialism and the rise of capitalism. We can’t solely blame the perpetrators of these crimes without examining the underlying issues or causes of these social ills that are inherent in colonial domination.
Yes, we are correct to be angry, shout and yell at the immediate perpetrators, who are mostly men, for hurting, abusing, raping and mercilessly killing us. But we should also blame and attack the colonial capitalist system that created and maintains social conditions under which black people live.
This writing emanates from the recent reports of “gender-based violence” and merciless killings of black women and children by black men in South Africa, especially now during the State imposed lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Day in and day, out we hear horrible stories of women and children being murdered, such as the three-year-old baby girl who went missing for a few days, only to be found killed, with stab wounds on her upper body and dumped in a plastic bin. We heard about the 79-year-old woman who was attacked inside her home, the 25-year-old woman who was axed to death by her ex-boyfriend and the 28-year-old heavily pregnant woman who was stabbed and hanged on a tree, with an eight-month-old unborn baby still inside her, taking two lives in one go.
This is sickening! It has to stop! Enough is enough! I plead with you to please protect and defend African women and children. If we don’t, who else will?
African women have been through a lot and we are still going through a lot. The African community must take a stand to defend African women; we have been subjected to all kinds of pain and violence.
We are not only dealing with the colonial capitalist system’s exploitation as we generally experience it; we have an additional yoke on our shoulders as colonized women, which is our special oppression, usually carried out within the African colony by other colonized people.
Parasitic capitalist-colonialism is rape culture
The first attack African women suffered was colonialism, which is the foreign domination of an entire people for the material and social benefit of the colonizer. Europeans are the ones who first killed, raped and used African women and men as commodities. Over the course of centuries of subjugation, our brothers became indoctrinated with this nonsensical, immoral and toxic white culture towards African women.
What I see happening today, therefore, is the legacy of the colonial-capitalist system. With the arrival of the colonial settlers came the rise of capitalism from it’s primitive accumulation of our resources and labour. The colonizers separated our families by taking our fathers, husbands and brothers to the mines to dig up our resources for white consumption, while they turned African women into baby making machines to produce labourers for production. We were turned into maids and demeaned as human beings, as we still see it today. White people make us walk their dogs or carry them around on our backs as babies.
Black men adopted the “rape culture” and violence from Europeans who brought the savagery, death and destruction from Europe to Africa. Now our condition has been exacerbated by the material want that our communities are subjected to, due to the theft of our resources.
When our colonizers attacked and occupied our land, they did so through the barrel of a gun. When they raped and killed African women, they also did it through the use of force and violence. Today, violence and “rape culture” is synonymous with black men. They are the face of every cruel and toxic behaviour that’s happening in the society, while the white men who introduced it are models of “good moral and behaviour”.
Even today, white people still axe and kill each other, but the first suspect becomes the black man. Both prominent white cases (S v Pistorius and S v Van Breda case) where white people were brutally killed by their own, the suspects or intruders were black men. These two cases explicitly show us that white men are not models of “good moral and behaviour,” as the media has led many of us to believe. This is embedded in white culture’s historical DNA, but white people have always had a cover-up – black men.
Europeans introduced their cold and cruel religion, which they call Christianity, and used violence and instilled fear into black people that they will go to hell if they don’t comply with colonialism. Our fore-bearers, after years of resistance, were ultimately subdued and forced to adopt it Christianity. Down went our cultural values. Those who continued to resist this incursion were called pagans (amaqaba), while the converted ones were called “amagqobhoka”.
The settlers in Azania not only enjoy the fruits of our labour and resources; they also brutalize and kill us as a form of therapy. That is also why they would even kill a 16-year-old teenage boy for allegedly “stealing” a sunflower. Unashamedly, they shoot and kill black men in the farms, claiming that they mistook them for baboons.
This is exactly why they would violently and inhumanly put an alive black man in a coffin and also fed a black man to lions in 2005. Europeans have always been violent and black people learned from them. However, by saying all of this I am not justifying a black man’s behaviour; I want to deal with the underlying causes first before we deal with the symptoms.
Patriarchy is a symptom of colonialism
African women cannot breathe. The environment is not conducive and safe for us. For hundreds of years, the system has been kneeling on our necks in more ways than our equally colonized male counterparts. Therefore, I call upon both African men and women to raise our fists up and fight back and unite against the colonial-capitalist system and its patriarchal underpinnings of masculinity over femininity.
Yes, we need to dismantle patriarchy together because it came with colonialism. In pre-colonial Africa, black men and women were united and treated each other with love and respect. This is why African men never raped their women, despite African women walking around braless and wearing the traditional mini-skirt called inkciyo. Black men were never discomforted by seeing naked breasts, until a colonial settler arrived.
In Europe, men treated women like property. Upon their domination of Africa, African men were positioned to be superior to African women. The European settlers reinforced backwards notions, such as that men are the boss in the house, a woman must bow before them and she is weak and cannot do this and that.
Before colonialism, black men and women were equally working together ploughing the fields in order to produce food. Also, during harvest time, both African men and women, boys and girls would go into the fields and work. That is why even subsequent to our dispossession, both boys and girls would go and herd the cows; for example, Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela grew up herding the cows.
Europeans never had equal powers with their women; a woman was told her place is in the kitchen. Patriarchy is their thing. The exclusion of women from power came with them. Our brothers learned this and adopted it. It is wrong, African brothers, and we will help you unlearn this through revolutionary struggle so we can be together as one, fighting our oppressor together.
We need Black Power!
In conclusion, my African brothers and sisters, let’s unite and fight together to reclaim our Black Power, so that our black Lives will matter as we build a new world. Because if we don’t crush the capital-colonial system which maintains patriarchy, we are going to continue with these numerous futile hashtags, such as #MenAreTrash #NotInMyName #MenMustFall #AmINext and the rest of them.
To you, African men in Occupied Azania (South Africa) in particular, you have to stop your petty bourgeois inspired nonsensical “bro code” of loyalty; call each other out and expose the perpetrators. Stop protecting them because they are your friends, homies and colleagues. The entire African community must take a stance in defending African women from the violence perpetrated against us on a daily basis.
Defend African women!
Fists up! Fight back!
Join the African National Women’s Organization (ANWO) at anwouhuru.org
Register for the ANWO convention July 11-12 at convention.anwouhuru.org
Join the African People’s Socialist Party at apspuhuru.org
Vuyo Nyeli is a Clinical Consultant, senior law (LLB) student at University of South Africa (UNISA), and a member of the African National Women’s Organization.