Rape is not a joke

Rape is not a joke

When it was alleged that former South Africa president, Jacob Zuma, had raped an HIV positive female friend in 2006, the ANC youth league president of that time Julius Malema was supportive of his president and even blamed the woman of being a liar. In his own words Malema said the woman had enjoyed it because she even waited for breakfast and asked for taxi fare from her supposed rapist.

Fortunately, in this case, Mbuyiselo Botha of Sonke Justice NGO filed a case of hate speech in the Equality Court against Malema. The court found Malema guilty and it sentenced him to apologise and also pay a fine of R500 000. He subsequently complied with the court’s ruling after a lot of delaying tactics.

This kind of remedy against those who think they are law unto themselves only happens when proper legal structures and appropriate legislation is in place.
Regrettably in Lesotho due to lack of legal structures and poor legislation, people get away with murder literally.
It was not a long ago when one Thato Ponya an SRC secretary General at that time advocated for the rape of a renowned journalist Nthakoana Ngatane. Ponya was angry at Ngatane for allegedly portraying the government in a negative image.

According to him, the woman could be disciplined through rape. When local and international media together with some NGOs reprimanded Ponya over his utterances, he publicly apologised and that was it.

No legal action, either by Ngatane or any NGO was ever taken against Ponya for his utterances.
A few months down the line, we are faced with a similar case to that of Ponya. This time the man in the hot seat is none other than LCD deputy spokesperson Mr Apesi Ratšele.
I am not mentioning Mr Ratšele’s party here because it has anything to do with his renditions. I am just bringing to the attention of the reader his importance and his stature coupled with the respect and honour bestowed upon him by his fellow cadres.

To hold an NEC post in any party in Lesotho is not a small feat. It says you are a leader and should at all times and in all circumstances carry yourself with aura and austerity. However it seems Ratšele does not necessarily understand all these principles.

At a march organised by the factory workers on Monday last week there was an unsavoury song that was sung by the protesters. The song was encouraging for the rape of Minister of Labour and Employment Hon. Keketso Rantšo. A song that advocates for sexual assault is not only absurd but it perpetrates cruelty at its worst.

The rape according to the nasty song, was expected to be carried out by Hon Rantšo’s partners in the coalition government. I bet some readers will agree with me that there are so many issues to joke about, but sexual violence, commonly known as rape should not be one of them.

In fact had this been in another country, the singers could have been brought before the courts of laws for encouraging hatred.
What was most appalling was a video trending on Facebook of Mr Apesi Ratšele singing along with the protesters to this offensive song. Whether Mr Ratšele was aware of the video or not is neither here nor there.

At the end of the day what matters is that he uttered those horrible words that are tantamount to hate speech.
It is thus important for the benefit of his personal image for him to just swallow his pride and apologise to Hon. Rantšo and to women for joking about a serious offence such as rape.
It is also important to mention that Lesotho is a signatory to several protocols and conventions that are against the violation of women’s rights.

One such convention is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which states in Article 5 (a) that, State Parties shall take appropriate measures: to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on the stereotyped roles for men and women.

It is on the basis of this article that I think it is high time Basotho stop hiding behind the cultural norms and differentiate between the bad and the good. This is because when people started complaining about the rape song directed to Hon. Rantšo, one of the workers’ association member Mr Makakole said there was nothing wrong with the song as people “often” sing such songs during protests.

In my humble opinion the analysis by Mr Makakole is flawed and he should also apologise on behalf of himself and his charge for singing such a despicable song.
It is time for Lesotho to enact legislation that will protect people against hate speech. What has occurred against the Minister of Labour and Employment can happen to anybody and it is time that future incidents are curbed. This article is no way aimed at undermining the right of people to protest, however I am saying a protest should not be turned into a machine that drives hatred among Basotho.

Kelello Rakolobe

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