The South African Federation of Trade Unions, on 7 August 2017, expressed its disgust at “the violent assault on two women by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education Mduduzi Manana at a Johannesburg night club”.
He pleaded guilty and was convicted, on 13 September, on three counts of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Today SAFTU expresses its disgust – this time at the extremely lenient sentence imposed on Manana – to pay a R100 000 fine or face 12 months in jail, complete 500 hours of community service, complete a rehabilitation program and pay the victims a total of R26 680,46.
Any sentence that offers the offender a choice between a fine and imprisonment is inherently biased against the poor. R100 000 for many unemployed workers is impossible to raise and the sentence affectively means 12 months in jail. For a relatively wealthy former minister like Manana, R100 000 can probably be paid off within minutes on his laptop or smart phone.
SAFTU agrees with Siyabulela Jentile, Chairperson of #Not In My Name, that Manana must step down as an ANC MP. “This man can no longer sit as a member of Parliament. We can’t have women beaters sitting in the highest office of the land.
“No one has shown any remorse towards the victims. The man showed us that he is arrogant,” added Jentile. “The case against Manana should have been used to send a strong message to people who abuse women… that South Africa does not and will not tolerate gender-based violence.”
Violence against women is rooted in attitudes we inherited from the age of colonialism and apartheid, of patriarchy, sexism, racism and homophobia which continue today, ironically typified by Manana’s pathetic excuse in his defence that “he was asked by one of the women, Noluthando Mahlaba, who joined their table: ‘Who do you think you are? You isitabane”, a term used to derogatively refer to gay people.
He admitted that following this remark, he intentionally assaulted Mahlaba with an open hand on her face and back, pulled her hair, pulled her to the ground, kicked and punched her. He implied that his homophobic attitude to gay people somehow excused his sexist assault on three women.
Another alarming fact about the Mañana case is that his conviction was reinforced by video-taped evidence. Without that, this could have well become another on the long list of crimes which never led to prosecution.
Police make arrests on only half of all the crimes reported annually. Of those arrested a meager 42% eventually appear in court; the rest are released. And less than a third of the suspects who do appear in court are found guilty.
The police themselves have reported that in 2009 the conviction rate for murder in this country was 13% and for rape it is 11.5%. But other estimates in 2014 said the conviction rate is as low as 10%.”
As the federation’s General Secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, said at the funeral of our NUMSA comrade, Thembisile Yende, who was murdered while working for Eskom: “The statistics of violent crimes against women and children are appalling. One in five women have experienced physical violence and the figure is even higher in the poorest communities, but these terrible figures do not begin to convey the pain, fear and trauma faced by thousands of women every day of the year, as so horrifically illustrated by what has happened to Thembisile”.
“Sadly of course this outrage is not an isolated incident. It is just the latest example of murder, rape, kidnapping and violence against women in South Africa which must force all of us to do more to combat these appalling crimes. SAFTU is joining the battle to end this national disgrace.
“But,” he added, “we must go beyond just expressing our horror at these atrocities and turn our anger into action. It must not be a problem we only mention once a year during the 16 Days of Activism, and do nothing in the nothing about it in the other 349 days”.
The flood of women around the world coming forward to report cases of sexual assault is very welcome and SAFTU encourages victims of violent attacks to follow their example.
But this campaign will not be assisted by the Mañana’s lenient sentence, which will not convince victims that they can expect justice for those convicted of these horrible crimes. SAFTU calls for the NPA to appeal the sentence and use this case as a signal that violence against women will from now on lead to stiff jail sentences which will be a real deterrent.