Did Ramaphosa miss a golden opportunity to put SA at ease on these nagging GBV accusations?

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By: Clyde Ramalaine

SONA 2020 debate came to an end with President Ramaphosa in a sense of pragmatism making the case for apologizing to Malema on behalf of Member of Parliament Boy Mamabolo for the initiation of a personal attack. Rightly so the president in leadership echoed the sentiments of many of us on the danger of trivialising and vulgarising the gender-based violence reality. This marked a unique moment of commendable leadership on his part. It almost became sentimental since many in the house applauded. It almost became a teary and mushy affair as he reminded Malema that his late wife [Nomasizi] can’t speak for herself.

However, one thing is clear the president steered clear on any actual refute of Malema’s levelled accusation. I think the president missed a golden opportunity to help us all take pride that he as the face of the anti-GBV campaign is a trusted leader and rightly so on this score. Unfortunately, President Ramaphosa missed a chance to say to SA, “I Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa has never physically assaulted any woman living or dead.”

Had the president opted to do that he would have had his late wife Nomasizi and many others speak, regardless of their status understood in living or the dead. The late Mrs Ramaphosa can’t speak for herself that is indisputable. But the president certainly can speak because he is alive. He has the privilege to set the record once and for all straight. He could have set the record straight since the accusation is levelled against him as a perpetrator, not her.

On another level, I am increasingly struggling with the idea that cheap refuge is taken in the fact that the dead can’t speak which in a twisted sense extends the long night of women and child abuse. The African proverb goes ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ meaning we have voices beyond ourselves that in an African society irrevocably should reverberate I am my sister’s keeper. It cannot be that the burden is again shifted to the victim to speak and because they are late no one speaks from her village. In this setting, we will not find justice and we certainly will not obliterate the demon of GBV. Yes, we as Africans believe the dead ought not to be disturbed in their rest, but those who died left a village behind, the dead has a community of living and that community is alive. Let us therefore accept that when a woman or child is killed by someone they are not silenced because we as the community will speak on their behalf to ensure justice is attained.

Juxtapose this silence of the president to Malema, who on the other hand, on Tuesday was emphatically clear that he has never in violence attacked any woman.

Unfortunately, the GBV issue is not helped when a categorical statement from the political face of SA leadership remains silent in emphasis as his innocence on assertions that in all probability may resurface. The president left us emotional just not convinced. We needed him to disown these claims and express how vile these are and how repugnant he finds it to be remotely associated with gender-based violence. Again Ramaphosa failed the decisive test.

It, however, was not the first time the president in the very careful construction of word choice sidestepped a pertinent and direct issue addressed to him at a personal level.

SONA 2019 saw COPE’s Mosuia Lekota stood up and accuse Ramaphosa of having penned a letter to the apartheid special branch. Ramaphosa in his reply around this issue also steered clear saying, “I didn’t sell out” he never disowned the existence of the letter. Ramaphosa never insisted to see the letter since it was in his mind necessarily a fabrication. Logic would dictate that he would have insisted that the letter be made public since he knew it could never have been penned by him.

So while some stood up and applauded his final remarks I know I am not alone in wondering what prevented the president to go full throttle. He could still have had the apology – who knows it may even have come from both ANC and EFF sides. However, since President Ramaphosa opted to go this route it can now be seen as another meticulous deflection. He left his former wife voiceless when he had a chance to clear the record from his vantage point.

The issue of a letter sent to the apartheid special branch remains hanging and unfortunately so the levelled accusation of being a GBV perpetrator. The nagging question remains what does the undeniable silence of Ramaphosa in in irrevocable abhorrence of being associated with the crime of GBV render many mean? If anyone could have cleared this up once and for all it was Ramaphosa and he opted to be silent.

South Africans know there is a legitimate anti-GBV campaign they still what they after the SONA 2020 do not know is if the face of the campaign is innocent. This on the day when the latest victim of the scourge of GBV confirms another child killed by a convicted criminal who was on parole.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
A Lifelong Social Justice Activist Political Commentator & Writer is a SARChi D. Litt.et. Phil candidate in Political Science with the University of Johannesburg. Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation – The Thinking Masses of SA